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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in joevardon's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006
1:42 pm
What are all these boxes for?
OK, so it's been almost a month since I've last posted.

Give me a break. It's taken about that long to get through all these boxes and reach my blog.

You see, I'm moving on.

After four years and seemingly hundreds of thousands of miles, I'm leaving The Wooster Daily Record for other opportunities. I must admit I've known about this for a few weeks and that's why my blogging has been, shall we say, scattered.

Since this blog is technically company property, I'm not going to promote where I'm going or why. We'll just say I'm staying in this business and leave it at that.

As for this blogging thing, well, I'm not sure when or if I'll start a new one. If and when I do, I'll make sure I get the word out.

Thank you for reading and for your comments.

Do me a favor. Keep buying newspapers.

Good night and good luck.

Sunday, April 30th, 2006
10:42 pm
The draft. The playoffs. Sunday Night Baseball.

Let's put it this way. There was no time for Sopranos last night, so don't tell me what happened.

I have neither the brain nor batter power to go deep into situations regarding the Indians, Cavaliers and Browns. Instead, I plan to, I believe your word for it is "dabble," into all three subjects.


BROWNIE BITES — Seems like Phil Savage is happy with his second draft as the Browns' GM. I definitely like his work on Day 1 (Kamerion Wimbley, D'Qwell Jackson and Travis Wilson) and don't know enough about the Day 2 guys to say either way.

I think both Wimbley and Jackson could step in and start in Romeo Crennel's 3-4 defense and Wilson is going to get a chance to play. The Browns are not as deep at receiver as some think.

While it's exciting to consider all of the possibilities regarding Cleveland's draft, remember two things: 1. It's only the draft. Until these players play in NFL games, we have no idea if they'll make the Browns better. 2. There hasn't been one No. 1 pick by the Browns since 1999 who didn't turn out to either be a bust or have the early part of his career derailed by injury.

Say a prayer for Wimbley.

PLAYOFFS, SQUARE 1 — The Cavs are now in a best-of-three series with the Wizards after dropping Game 4 in Washington.

Cleveland had the goal of winning a game at the Verizon Center and regaining home-court advantage. Mission accomplished.

It would've been nice to win Game 4, but the Cavs are in a position to simply win their last two home games and move on to the next round.

I agreed with TNT's announcing team — Cleveland's offense was a little too stagnant. I'd like to see LeBron continue to attack but others to move more without the ball.

INDIANS' ILLS — It wasn't exactly an awful April (13-12), but the Indians still have a lot of room to grow.

I guess the good news is they're only a few games behind the White Sox instead of 7 1/2. That way, when the Tribe gets hot this summer it will have a chance to even surpass the Sox instead of just nipping at their heels.

After watching Jason Davis implode, it's pretty clear Cleveland still needs some bullpen help. Eventually, it may have to come from outside the organization, but it's still too early for that.

Does that cover it?

Probably not, but HBO will be replaying "Sopranos" soon and I shouldn't keep Tony waiting.
Tuesday, April 25th, 2006
12:54 pm
Happy Anzac Day
Everyone knows today is Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand, but can you name me the four other players in which this holiday is observed? ...

To all of those who've been posting comments on this blog lately, keep up the good work. Your words often spark thoughts and ideas for me. Thank you for reading and responding.

Now, for today's topic, what are the Indians going to do about their pitching staff?

With the starting rotation, the answer is re-insert C.C. Sabathia and hope the last week was an aberration. The Indians didn't have a single pitcher last seven innings one entire turn through the rotation.

Paul Byrd, the two-year, $14 million pitcher, has really struggled and has a 9.15 ERA. There are some youngsters (Fausto Carmona, Jeremy Guthrie, etc.) who would probably like an extended shot in the big leagues, but Byrd is going to win out over them because of the contract. When Sabathia returns, Carmona is probably heading back to the farm.

As for the bullpen, it seems like the Tribe is going to have to keep plugging holes until it finds what works. Matt Miller is done for the year, Rafael Betancourt is out for at least a month and Fernando Cabrera is trying to get his stuff together in Buffalo.

Maybe Guthrie is an answer. Maybe Steve Karsay or Felix Heredia can come up from the minors and be of help.

Regardless, there's no reason to panic right now. Not only is it way, way early for that, but these Indians hit a ton. The offense should be able to provide enough help until the pitching staff rights itself.

Anzac Day answers: Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and Tonga
Sunday, April 23rd, 2006
11:12 pm
There's nothing worse than a homer in the press box, trust me on that one.

Yet, the pregame presentation for the Cavaliers' 97-86 win over Washington in Game 1 of the playoffs got to me.

The giant video board at The Q began the ordeal by running a message saying something like "The playoffs are ... HOME", which was followed by pictures of Eric Snow and his alma mater, Canton McKinley High School.

Then there was another slogan, followed by images of LeBron James, the city of Akron and St. Vincent-St. Mary's High School.

Next was something like "And this is our house," followed by a bunch of Cavaliers and Cleveland highlights.

It was a moment to stick your chest out if you're from Northeast Ohio.

Look, on top of the problems the rest of the country has to deal with, we greater Clevelanders and Akronites must put up with the following: struggling economy, miserable winters, constant road construction and poor sports luck.

If it's unfortunate and it happened in sports, then it probably happened to Cleveland.

When we do get something (or someone) to rally around, we usually go overboard. You what? So be it. We deserve to get a little crazy.

The nature of my job prohibits me from rooting for the Cavaliers in the playoffs. Win or lose, it's all about reporting the facts.

I know this, but I allowed myself a moment when Ronnie Duncan was bellowing out "LeeeeeeBronnnnnnnnn JAMES" to feel the energy, take in the atmosphere and be proud of my hometown team and hometown people.

Playoffs don't come around here often, you know.

Indians general manager Mark Shapiro tends to be right a lot, even when he wishes he was wrong. He said all along he was worried about his bullpen and the bullpen could be a sore spot.

On the money with that one.

The Tribe pitching staff, not just its bullpen, is a mess.

Need proof?

The Indians scored 28 runs in a three-game series against Baltimore and lost two out of three!

Hopefully the GM can apply some of those smarts to finding some guys who can get outs.

By winning a one-on-one NCAA tourney pool against my wife, I earned the right to choose which television show turned DVD we buy next.

Sunday was the day to cash in, yet somehow we walked out of Target with Seasons 1 and 2 of "One Tree Hill."

Still wondering how that happened folks.
Tuesday, April 18th, 2006
12:56 pm
Much ado about ....
I'm sitting in the Browns' media room in Berea, surrounded by beat writers, columnists, talk-show hosts, sideline reporters and Internet writers.

The team didn't make a trade or sign a big name. None of its tight ends wrecked a motorcycle in a Westlake parking lot.

No, everyone is crammed in here because this is the day general manager Phil Savage breaks down the NFL Draft.

Check that. This is the day Savage vaguely touches on several general topics regarding next week's draft lollapalooza.

Nothing puzzles me more in this business than the hype leading up to draft weekend. The stories, interviews and shows that precede draft day are endless. By the morning of April 29, excitement will be at a fever pitch.

I don't get it.

Do we as a country like football this much that we need to break down every NFL team's needs almost weekly for literally months leading up to the draft? Do we need to host draft-day parties and huddle around television screens watching highlights until the Browns pick at No. 12?

The answers, of course, are A.) absolutely and B.) why not?

I like football as much as the next guy, but I just can't get into this pre-draft hype. I'd rather talk Cavs playoffs or Tribe baseball, but the NFL Draft has basically morphed into its own major sporting event.

What cracks me up more than anything about the draft is the nature of the anticipation that builds up to it. The talk is usually centered around how can this team or that can make itself better, when in reality, draft picks often don't make immediate impacts.

Look at the Browns' No. 1 picks since 1999. Did any of them, save for maybe Courtney Brown early on, really make the team that much better?

Even the team's last two No. 1s, Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards, have done almost nothing in their young careers. Winslow has missed all but two games in two years with injuries and Edwards had his rookie season cut short with a devastating knee injury.

Both players will probably still make positive impacts, but they will not have done so in their first seasons after being drafted.

When Major League Baseball has its draft in June, almost no one cares because it will be years before almost any of the draftees reaches the big leagues. Football is different, but the differences aren't as drastic as they may initially appear.

The fact of the matter is, the some of the players drafted next weekend will turn out to be solid pros. A few will be difference makers and an even smaller group will be that good this season.

The rest will either take a season or two to develop, get hurt or never work out.

What's so exciting about that?
Thursday, April 13th, 2006
4:22 pm
Gettin' goats
Want to rile up a sports writer?

Become a pro athlete and take on the attitude of a prima donna.

Somewhere, and I'm not exactly sure where it is, but somewhere there's a list of about 1.3 million things sports writers hate, among them being poor press box food, absence of parking passes and extra innings. Also on that list is the "holier than thou" attitude.

Boy do we hate that.

What's got those who cover the Cleveland Indians grumbling lately is Grady Sizemore, or more specifically, the new media restrictions regarding Sizemore's pregame interviews. Those who want to talk to Sizemore when the Indians are at home must request him through the PR staff no later than noon on that specific day. The interview will then be conducted at 3:30 in the dugout, likely in a group setting.

Now, first of all, most of us aren't even up by noon. Secondly, what exactly has Sizemore done to deserve preferential treatment when All-Star players like C.C. Sabathia, Victor Martinez and Ronnie Belliard are available to anyone at any time?

The Indians say Sizemore is very routine oriented and wants to be able to stick to his routine uninterrupted. When he was noticed watching the Real Housewives of Orange County in the clubhouse prior to Wednesday night's game, some hacks declared Sizemore's "routine" to be ... um ... unique.

I broached the subject with a friend who is not a writer, looking for some sympathy. Instead, what I found was a different perspective. According to my boy, it doesn't matter whether the guy is a rookie or a 13-year vet. If he has a routine, he's allowed to stick to it.

Furthermore, he said, Sizemore is not obligated to talk to anyone (true, but we're not obligated to be nice to him in the papers, either). It's perfectly within his rights to have these interview guidelines.

Ironically, one of the very things that drives us crazy about the SIZEMORE POLICY is that it screws with our routines!

I guess everyone is entitled to their own privacy and schedule, but that doesn't mean we have to like it.

And anyone who makes changes to our schedules as writers is definitely going on our list.
Tuesday, April 11th, 2006
11:43 am
Goin' to bat for 23
The Cavaliers' public relations department sent out a detailed, compelling argument for LeBron James to be this season's NBA Most Valuable Player.

Many of the numbers included in the document will be found in Wednesday's newspapers, so I won't go into great detail on them here.

But, just for fun, this is how the Cavs' email began.

"James’ Cavaliers’ have clinched their first trip to the playoffs since the 1997-98 season and home court advantage for the first round. The team has 46 wins with six more games to play in the regular season. He has become known throughout the league for his unselfish play and elevating the play of his team collectively, while also authoring one of the most historic seasons ever by an individual player. In other words, he is the "perfect storm" on the court."

I was with them all the way until the "perfect storm" part. LBJ doesn't need anymore nicknames, especially one as cheesy as "perfect storm." Still, I appreciated the Cavs' work and I think they may be on to something.

Only problem is, the MVP voters might not listen to them.

Voters for this award hate giving it to young players, hate giving it to players on teams that are either bad or recently became good and hate to be told who to vote for.

Let's see, LeBron is 21, his Cavs just clinched their first playoff berth since 1997-98 and his team just emailed the Magna Carta of why he should be MVP.

Yep, he's a shoe-in all right.

I think if voters (I am not one, by the way) refused to let egos and traditions get in the way, James would be the clear-cut choice. His numbers are ridiculous and his team is perhaps one of the top in the NBA, all because of him.

There isn't a more complete player who has meant more to his team than James. Isn't that what the MVP award is supposed to be all about?

If you think the Cavs are better without Zydrunas Ilgauskas, you need to check yo self before you wreck yo self.

I know they beat the Nets and Hornets without him, but winning in the playoffs requires a presence in the middle. Anderson Varejao, Alan Henderson and Drew Gooden do not provide that presence.

The Cavs may be a little quicker without Z in there, but the run-and-gun stuff will not be around much come playoff time. They will need someone who can play with his back to the basket, make free throws and block shots.

They'll need Z.

Wasn't it like two months ago when the world was falling down on the Gretzkys? Wasn't his wife involved in some huge gambling investigation?

It seemed like the Great One was on pace to being exonerated, but that whole case disappeared from the news pretty fast.

Any updates would be appreciated.

Maybe the Phoenix Coyotes will send out an email.
Tuesday, April 4th, 2006
4:53 pm
Must wins in April
The best part about early season baseball is the over-analyzing of everything.

Here's my bid it at getting too excited through two games.

The Indians need to beat the White Sox on Wednesday.

Laugh if you want, but there are actually some solid reasons for this.

One, it sends a definite message to the defending world champs that they're going to be in for a fight this season. The Sox were miffed at the idea that the Indians publicly believed they can win the division this year. Going 1-2 against the Tribe to start the year just might let them know the Indians' inclinations are valid.

Secondly, the Indians went on and on about getting off to a good April. Two wins versus one loss is much better than the other way around.

Finally (at least as far as I can count), every game really does matter. When you miss out on the wild card by two games like the Indians did last season, games in April really do count as much as they do in September.

Through two games, Aaron Boone is 5-for-9 with a homer, double and four RBI. Casey Blake is 3-for-5 with four walks.

Boone was hitting .151 through June 3 and Blake was batting .187 through June 8 last season.

Grady Sizemore, meanwhile, has one hit in his first 10 at-bats.

I say cut him (not really, of course).

Kudos to the Cavs, who put in the work to ensure they'll still be playing basketball at the end of this month. They've already clinched a playoff bid and are about to wrap up home-court advantage in the first round.

I've been saying all season that they'd be OK, even during they're down time, and I was right. But this isn't about me.

This is about a team rallying around a superstar, adding a key role player and banding together when one of their other top guys went down for a lengthy period of time.

Now Larry Hughes is coming back, LeBron is unstoppable and opposing teams still have Flip Murray to contend with.

It's an exciting time for the Wine and Gold.
Thursday, March 30th, 2006
1:35 am
Spring training: Day 7
VIERA, Fla. – Baseball players love Ronnie Belliard.
Above all else, they love his personality.
It’s not a normal day inside the Indians’ clubhouse unless Belliard’s in there yelling and laughing about something, whether it’s in English or his native Spanish.
If Cleveland has a team clown, Belliard is it.
One player who wasn’t so happy to see Belliard on Tuesday was Washington Nationals leftfielder Alfonso Soriano.
Soriano, you remember, recently refused to go out to his position when Nationals manager Frank Robinson wrote him in as the left fielder. He wanted to stay in the infield (probably at second base) and was ready to fight the Nationals on it.
With free agency coming his way this offseason and Washington threatening to de-activate him without pay, Soriano reluctantly agreed to try left field.
Belliard reminded him about the whole affair yesterday.
During the Nationals’ bating practice, Belliard waved to Soriano in left and shouted to him about seeing him out there. The helpless outfielder just sank and shook his head.
As teammates for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, Belliard probably overheard Soriano say he wasn’t playing the outfield. Whatever he heard, Belliard was laughing about it on Tuesday.
Soriano, meanwhile, didn’t find it as funny.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem like Soriano is being much of a team player. There was a ball hit his way by Victor Martinez in the fourth inning last night he let drop that probably would’ve been caught with even a little effort.
Then again, maybe Soriano was just feeling his way at a position he clearly isn’t comfortable playing.
Regardless, I’m quite sure he loves when guys like Belliard remind him of his misery.
Tuesday, March 28th, 2006
10:00 pm
Spring training: Day 6
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Forgive me if this gets confusing.
One of the Philadelphia Phillies beat writers is conducting a poll of 30 major-league writers’ predictions for the 2006 season.
He called the guy from the New York Daily News and asked for his picks. When the Philadelphia scribe got off the phone, he turned to us Cleveland hacks and said “The New York Daily News just picked the Indians to win the World Series.”
No joke.
As you might’ve guessed, The Daily Record will soon print its own special section stocked with predictions and preview articles for the upcoming year. Therefore, now is not the time to offer my own thoughts on where the Tribe will finish.
All I can tell you right now is the baseball world views the Indians as a force to be reckoned with. So does the team itself.
In my few years covering the Indians, I have never seen as much confidence in their clubhouse as I do now. They believe in each other and they believe in their chances.
The trade that sent Coco Crisp to the Red Sox for a minor leaguer, a backup catcher and a damaged relief pitcher in January was viewed as either a step back or a move made for the future.
Now, it’s hard to believe Crisp even played in Cleveland. Jason Michaels seems like an apt replacement for Crisp in left field and reliever Guillermo Mota appears capable of reaching his dominant form from 2003-04.
As for Andy Marte, well, the Indians can barely hold their water when his name comes up.
Angry fans will say Cleveland made no improvements this offseason while competitors like Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit upgraded their rosters.
The Indians have said and will say again in The DR’s special section that they’re better than they were a year ago when they won 93 games.
Only standings, not preseason polls, can settle this argument.
Monday, March 27th, 2006
4:28 pm
Spring training: Day 5
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – It’s rare to be in small company with greatness, to speak one-on-one with a hall of famer.
I got the chance Sunday when I approached Dayton Daily News Reds beat writer Hal McCoy to interview him for this piece.
McCoy is entering his 34th season covering Cincinnati and was inducted into the writers’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003. Sadly, he suffered strokes in both optic nerves about a month after his induction.
“I woke up one morning and everything was dark and blurry,” McCoy said.
Many of you know the story. McCoy, unable to drive a car after the strokes, was going to quit because of the hour-and-fifteen-minute commute to Cincinnati for home games. Indians third baseman Aaron Boone was with the Reds at the time and convinced McCoy to remain on the beat.
Not only has McCoy continued to bless Daily News subscribers and on-line readers with his poignant prose, but he has never missed a road game.
“Other than the weekend I was inducted to the hall of fame,” McCoy backtracked.
Mind you, that was before the strokes.
For home games, the Daily News provides him with a driver, often an intern or sports clerk. McCoy said it’s an inconvenience for the driver. I say it’s an honor.
Before yesterday’s Indians-Red game at Chain of Lakes Park, Indians assistant and former major-league pitcher Tim Belcher sought out McCoy in the press room. A player, current or former, does not seek out a writer.
It’s supposed to be the other way around. That’s how highly regarded McCoy is in the sport he has covered so diligently.
McCoy didn’t recognize Belcher at first. Unless he’s looking at someone from point-blank range, he can’t recognize his or her face.
“I try to let everyone know that because I feel so bad when I don’t recognize someone,” McCoy said.
Boone’s pep talk re-energized McCoy. He types in bold and enhanced fonts, but the screen grows more difficult for him to see each year.
Yet, at 65-years old (39 years and one month older than me), he’s still going strong.
“I’m going to keep going until I get it right,” McCoy said.
That’s great news.
Sunday, March 26th, 2006
3:35 pm
Spring training: Day 4
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The outcomes of spring-training contests mean nothing. Starters who are pulled after a few innings don’t even watch the rest of the game on television.
This, I get.
What I don’t get is the nonsensical handshakes that go on between coaches after their team wins in an exhibition. It’s a baseball tradition that goes back millions of years for members of a coaching staff to offer congratulatory shakes after wins that count (much like they would if one of their wives just had a baby), but the serious, matter-of-fact nature of these shakes during the spring is pure, unintentional comedy.
Much like the players, the coaches should use the month of March to prepare for the regular season. They should be working their way up from nods to back slaps to high fives so they’ll be fresh and ready to shake hands on April 2.
All of this shaking going on right now (don’t forget, the Indians lead the Grapefruit League with 17 wins) could wear the coaching staff down by August. …
I have yet to sit in on one of Tribe manager Eric Wedge’s personnel meetings, but here’s how I believe the few position races Cleveland has will play out:
1. Kelly Shoppach beats out Einar Diaz to be the backup catcher.
2. Todd Hollandsworth wins the fourth outfielder job in a landslide.
3. Danny Graves ekes out Steve Karsay and Jason Davis for the seventh bullpen slot.
4. Ramon Vazquez triumphs over Brandon Phillips as the Indians’ utility infielder; Phillips gets traded.
Some think the Vazquez-over-Phillips call is a no-brainer. I’m not so sure. Phillips is only 24 and still has talent. …
New England Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli was at the Indians game again on Saturday. He bears a slight resemblance to actor/director John Favreau.
I’ve also seen Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and Chargers boss Marty Schottenheimer in the last day or so in Central Florida. They’re here for the NFL owners meetings.
Saturday, March 25th, 2006
5:44 pm
Spring training: Day 3
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – The following are examples of how to ask for autographs and how not to ask for them.
How to: Politely state the player or coach’s name you want, then appeal to him by saying something he can identify with.
For instance, a woman yelled to Indians manager Eric Wedge, “Excuse me, Mr. Wedge. How about you sign a ball for a girl from Fort Wayne (Ind.)?”
Wedge, who is from Fort Wayne, stopped in his tracks and went over to sign her ball.
How not to: Bluntly shout the target’s last name like he’s a high school nose tackle and you’re his position coach.
For instance, a man belted out to Wedge, “Hey, Wedge, you got time for one?”
Wedge, of course, said he had a meeting and kept walking. …
Paul Byrd pitched for Louisiana State, yet didn’t pick his alma mater to advance to the Elite Eight in any of his NCAA tournament brackets.
Thus, Byrd was not able to fully enjoy the Tigers’ 62-54 upset victory over Duke on Thursday night. …
This was Toronto’s starting lineup against the Indians on Friday: Wayne Lydon (CF), Luis Figueroa (SS), Kevin Barker (LF), Jason Phillips (1B), Guillermo Quiroz (CA), Chad Mottola (DH), Justin Singleton (RF), Brad Hassey (3B), Ryan Klosterman (2B) and Davis Romero (LHP).
It’s no shock none of the Blue Jays writers made the trip to Winter Haven. None of them would’ve recognized the players they were covering.
Romero, who pitched in Single A last year, gave up seven runs in the second inning. He wasn’t even scheduled to pitch yesterday.
According to Toronto’s pregame notes, which are usually typed up only hours before first pitch, major leaguer Scott Downs was supposed to take the hill. Former Tribe lefty Brian Tallet was also slated to pitch.
Apparently, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons didn’t want to make his regulars travel after two consecutive night games. There used to be a rule about sending four big leaguers to every spring game, but it’s been virtually ignored by several teams this year because of the World Baseball Classic.
Count Toronto among those teams.
Friday, March 24th, 2006
2:13 pm
Spring training: Day 2
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – What scares me about Guillermo Mota is not so much the arm troubles he had last season, but the fact that he kind of looks like Jose Jimenez.

Jimenez, you remember, basically ruined the Indians’ 2004 season on his own by blowing save after save early on after being heralded as a key acquisition that offseason.

Mota was a key part, but not THE key part, of the deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston. The karma of being an offseason pick up and having similar facial and bodily features as Jimenez has me concerned.

Then again, Jimenez never threw a fastball that reached 95 miles per hour with the Tribe. Not once.

Mota did it several times on Thursday.

The Indians are bringing Mota along slowly, but they like what they see. They were especially pleased with the two innings he threw against the Braves, frames in which he mixed an above-average fastball with an impressive change and slider.

If Mota pitches like he did against Atlanta and like he did for most of his career – he’s got a 3.61 ERA in parts of seven big-league seasons, Cleveland’s bullpen has a chance to be as dominant as it was last year when it led all of baseball with a 2.80 ERA.

If he struggles with arm problems like he did with Florida last year, the Indians could be in trouble. They’re counting on Mota to be their set-up man and possibly close if Bob Wickman needs help, but will have to look elsewhere if his right arm doesn’t hold up.

Yesterday, it looked like Mota was just fine.

He looked nothing like Jimenez.
Thursday, March 23rd, 2006
3:00 pm
Spring training: Day 1
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Eric Wedge is not known for his sparkling personality, so it’s a gift when he offers us anything other than the company line he usually spits at the media.
Wednesday, my first day in sunny Central Florida, Wedge gave us one of those golden nuggets.
While talking about the art of hitting fungos to infielders, the Indians manager described the difficulty of switching from swinging a bat as a player to swinging a fungo as a coach.
“When you pick up that fungo for the first time, you’re glad you’re on Field 25 hitting to a bunch of young guys with nobody watching,” Wedge said. “It’s, uh, a little different.”
OK, so that one wouldn’t earn Wedge a job writing comedy, but that’s about as good as it gets for him.
I kind of felt where Wedge was coming from yesterday.
Completely out of sorts after basically getting off the plane and heading to the Astros’ Osceola County Stadium, I had to ask an usher how to get to the Indians’ dugout. While trying to explain myself, I stuck out my hand and smacked an unsuspecting vendor right in the nose.
I wasn’t on Field 25, per say, but it was early enough to avoid great public humiliation.
Other than my smooth move, it was a fine first day. Paul Byrd threw four innings of perfect ball and Jason Michaels looked strong running down some deep flies in left field.
Michaels, as you all remember, was part of those deals that led to Coco Crisp’s departure to Boston. Another player included in that deal, catcher Kelly Shoppach, had two hits, an RBI and threw out a would-be base stealer.
Heading to Disney World to watch the Indians and Braves play a practice game today. I promise to keep my hands to myself.
Saturday, March 18th, 2006
10:34 pm
Broken record
If you're like me, you're about sick and tired of the question "How's your bracket?"

Not just sick of hearing it, but asking it as well. You can't help yourself. Rather than asking someone something you don't care to know the answer to, something awful like "How are you?", you can ask something less painful, like "How's your bracket?"

Of course, the answer to this question is always negative, like "Oh, I'm screwed," or something not suitable for print.

Even more depressing than the question itself is when someone fires back with, "Nah, I don't get into the stuff. I don't have time."

In essence, whoever said that to you told you that: A.) You're a loser; B.) His or her time is more important than yours; C.) He had Monmouth going to the Elite Eight.

For those of you who at least admit your ineptness at bracketology, let me turn your attention to the professional game for a moment. Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are coming to Cleveland Sunday for a nationally televised matinee, and it's on LeBron James to step up his game.

Bryant outdueled James in the final moments of the last Cavs-Lakers meeting and led his team to a tight victory. He clearly showed the killer instinct while 'Bron appeared tentative.

If today's game comes down to the last shot, I wanted No. 23 taking it for the Cavs. Even if he misses, I'll be happy that he had the desire and wherewithal to take it.

And then, when someone asks me after the game if I'm ready for episode 2 of "Sopranos," I'll just smile.

That's a question I'll never get tired of.
Friday, March 17th, 2006
3:52 am
Not my month
Shouldn't the fact that my wife was born St. Patrick's Day bring me a little luck of the Irish?

And let me stop any of you sickos before you go any further with that one.

What I'm talking about here is my computer problems, or to be more specific, the two computers to have died on me in the last two weeks.

The latest casualty was today. The computer that was filling in for the one that died on me during the NCAA Div. III tournament, yeah, it kicked the bucket today.

Actually, it was murdered, although not in cold blood. I accidentally spilled a soft drink on the keyboard and thus plead guilt to involuntary manslaughter. The machine I'm working on now, a 1999 Hewlett Packard, let's just say it's not up to speed with today's modern technology.

Maybe this latest crash was a good thing. I must say, it certainly took my mind off my bracket, which gave up the ghost several hours ago.

The following schools are off my Christmas list: Seton Hall, Oklahoma, Xavier (shot in the dark), Iona and Nevada, and those are just the losers I can remember. I'm sure there are more and that list is probably going as we speak.

And speaking of losers, how's it feel to live in the third-best baseball-playing country in NORTH AMERICA? The U.S. said adios to the World Baseball Classic after its loss to Karim Garcia and Mexico tonight, about a week after losing to Canada.

At least the U.S. basketball team medaled. Fifth place is not exactly something to write home about, especially when we're talking about our nation's pastime.

And speaking of writing home, that's probably what new Browns left tackle Kevin Shaffer did after getting shafted in Sunday's papers. Here's Shaffer, a former seventh-round draft pick who signed a bigger contract (seven years, up to $37 million) than he ever dreamed of and he was shoved to the bottom in our stories by the signings of LeCharles Bentley and Joe Jurevicius.

They say money can't buy happiness, but I'm hoping it's at least a remedy for being ignored by a few poor, ink-stained hacks.

For those who need to reach me, shoot me an email at jw3827@aol.com for at least a week or two.

Also, be sure to check this blog often beginning next Wednesday, when I head south for spring training. In addition to writing extensively for The Daily Record, I will also be updating this blog daily.

I'd like to write more now, but I better go before I cause any further damage.

This machine's getting up there in age, you know.
Sunday, March 12th, 2006
11:39 pm
Well, whad'ya think?
I just got done giving my television a back and foot massage.

After all, it deserved it.

I mean, with Cavs-Heat, Duke-BC, Buckeyes-Iowa, U.S.-Japan, NCAA Selection Show, "Through the Fire," "Sopranos" and "Big Love" running one after the other, there was simply no way to give Betsy a break on Sunday.

My eyes burn and my back aches from the ol' couch, but I'm ready to discuss and celebrate the day's events.

WELCOME BACK - It's been almost two years since we saw Tony and the boys do something original. When the theme song blared through Betsy around 9:03 p.m., I actually got tears in my eyes.

I won't ruin the ending in case you haven't seen it yet, but let's just say it involves the "Guy from Jersey."

Line of the show: Dr Melfi: "It's the circle of life."
Tony: More like the circle*&%$ of life."

The Season 6 premier was good, to be sure, but I did get a little sense that some of the writing seemed forced. A few of the lines were reaches, whereas writer/creator David Chase's dialogue normally seems to come naturally.

Still, though, good stuff and great to have the Sopranos back on Sunday nights.


God bless him and God save him.

I was reminded of a "Seinfeld" episode where Jerry and George admitted if they combined their talents they could perform the duties of one normal man.

With three women, not one, analyzing their every move, Jerry and George would've had no chance.

(It has come to my attention many of you may have no idea what I'm talking about here. This is a tidbit about HBO's new show "Big Love," which is about a modern-day family that practices polygamy. The dude has three wives. It's pretty clever.)

Three wives? I'm in enough trouble with one.

LOL - It's the eighth inning of the U.S.-Japan game in the World Baseball Classic.

The score is tied 3-3, the bases are loaded and Japan is batting with one out.

Someone hits a fly ball to left that is deep enough to score the runner from third. Runner scores easily and is ruled by second-base umpire to have left for home after the ball was caught.

U.S. manager Buck Martinez appeals that it was the home-plate umpire's call, not the second-base umpire's. Home-plate umpire agrees with Martinez and eventually rules the runner left before the ball was caught and called him out, thus ending the inning.

Japanese manager comes out to argue, but there's a problem.

He doesn't speak English!

Instead of going chest to chest with the umpire, the Japanese manager had to argue through an interpreter. Nothing like a 5-foot-3, 112-pound go-between arguing with a burly umpire, then having to turn around and relay the message to an enraged manager.

You've got to see this to believe it.

TOURNEY TIMEOUT - I'm in basketball overload right now. Can't break down the brackets.

All I can say is props to Kent State for winning the MAC and look out Pitt come Friday. They might see their season FLASH before their eyes!

Anyway, I gotta go. I've got to bring Betsy some apple juice and do some stretching.

The Browns are hosting an open tryout for all Northeast Ohioans, and after their signing of three players from the greater Cleveland area in 24 hours, I think I have a shot.

If I make it, maybe my TV can give me a rub down.
Friday, March 10th, 2006
3:15 pm
From one spring to the next
Spring training is almost over for me.

Yep, I'll be breaking camp Saturday in anticipation of Sunday's prime-time season opener.

For the past six weeks, I've been logging one, two hours a day of work to prepare for what will happen Sunday night. The sixth and final season of "Sopranos" will get under way and I was not about to be in sub-par shape for the affair.

From Tony's passion for the ducks all the way through Silvio whacking Adriana, I watched every episode of seasons 1-5 on HBO OnDemand.

I could draw a Soprano family tree blindfolded and can smell the capicola in my sleep.

I've made it a point to hug and kiss every man, woman and child I greet. When one of my friends walks through the door, I'm the first to bellow out "Oh!"

My trigger finger is ... well, I don't own and have never shot a gun, so my trigger finger is rather weak, but I'm ready to roll for Season 6.

What are my expectations, you ask?

You're not going to get anything of the sort here. I'm just going to take it one episode at a time, keeping plugging away and one day look up and it will all be over.

This week's edition of "Newsweek" said the first episode contains a "murder, a suicide, a maiming, a fatal heart attack and a shooting." The prospects of what happens to whom are making me reach for the Tums.

So, while "Sopranos" hits the ground running in the regular season, I'll be gearing up to head to another spring training on March 22. I'll be with the Indians for a week, working myself into baseball writing shape in anticipation of the April 7 home opener (the first regular-season game I'll cover).

To do it, I'll need to write features, columns, notebooks and maybe even a game story. Of course, I'll have to pause on Sunday, March 26, to switch back to my other the season, the one that I've been working toward for almost two months.

"Woke up this mornin', got yourself a gun..."

It's game time, baby.

Thursday, March 9th, 2006
5:20 pm
Oh Canada?
Oh say did you see ....

That freakin' Canada beat the U.S. in baseball?

Between that embarrassment in the World Baseball Classic and the Barry Bonds situation, the face of baseball in America has a little egg on it at the moment.

The Americans, with a Major League Baseball payroll of over $70 million, lost 8-6 to a Canadian club carrying roughly a $6 MLB payroll. What's next, the Toronto Argonauts whipping the Steelers in the North America Bowl?

The U.S. needs to beat South Africa tomorrow and hope for some help in the Canada-Mexico game just to advance to the next round. Can you imagine if either one of our neighbors moves on and we are left sucking our thumbs?

Now, I don't actually think Ernie Els and the boys are going to beat Roger Clemens and Co. tomorrow, but the fact that I and interested parties like me have to worry about this speaks volumes of how sad a situation this really is.

Even if the U.S. does advance, the country's athletic reputation is still on shay ground (albeit not as shaky as its president). We have the U.S. basketball team winning a bronze medal in 2004, the Bode Miller fiasco and now this.

It frustrates me to no end to watch the American baseball club because of its approach. While the other countries are playing to win at all costs, U.S. manager Buck Martinez is taking players out after five or six innings and not playing his best lineup. He's pulling pitchers way ahead of their pitch counts and trotting others out there who have no business pitching (see Al Leiter).

I don't care what the responsibility is to MLB, I don't want my country's team run like a summer camp. Play hard, play to win and play the players who will best help you win.

In other words, leave Leiter in the dugout and make sure Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are out there for all nine innings.

It's sad to see so many American athletes taking the country-club approach to international competition while a guy like Allen Iverson can't even get a spot on the U.S. basketball team's expanded roster. While so many of his peers balked at and turned down invitations to play this summer, next summer and in the 2008 Olympics, Iverson said he would've loved to wear red, white and blue.

It's terrible that this country, full of dominant and superior athletes, is represented by so many people who don't care and turns away the ones who do.
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