Music to Tribe’s ears

January 4, 2013

You knew Nick Swisher was introduced as an Indian today. You did not know he introduced a CD in late 2011. No, you did not know that. Quit pretending you knew that. If you’re a real Cleveland fan you knew his wife Joanna Garcia is an actress. You knew he starred in baseball, football, and basketball at Parkersburg High School in West Virginia. You knew he went to Ohio State on a baseball scholarship. You knew his father Steve played catcher for nine seasons for the Cubs, Cardinals, and Padres. You thought you knew that the Indians couldn’t sign a player like Nick Swisher.

But you did not know he put out a music CD.

He did, though, back in October 2011. It’s called “Believe”, which is the name of the title track written former New York Yankee Bernie Williams. It also features San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito on guitar. No Ben Broussard, though.

Oh, one other thing you didn’t know — this is a kid’s record. Yep, Nick Swisher sings with a choir of children ages 8-13, and all proceeds go to his Swish’s Wishes Foundation, which helps children in need. So we can’t even make fun of Nick Swisher for making a CD. Well, that, and because it’s not half-bad. Swisher sings cover songs of Beatles (“With a Little help From My Friends”), Rolling Stones (“Jumpin’ Jack Flash”), Sly and the Family Stone (“Everyday People”) and other’s, with a rendition of “Hang on Sloopy” thrown in. 

Sure, “Believe” isn’t even reason #1,784 that the Indians signed him, because they didn’t know it either. But it might be a Top 10 reason why Cleveland will love Nick Swisher. Swisher stared down a big chance to embarrass himself and acquitted himself on a CD that actually serves as a fun sing-a-long for kids. Nick Swisher, you are indeed Swishalicious!

Here’s a track-by-track analysis of “Believe” …

1) HEROES (David Bowie)

Swisher’s vocals would be a highlight on any Thursday karaoke night. The kid’s choir is smooth. When Swisher starts talking in between the kids singing “We can be heroes” toward the end, well, it makes everyone want to be a hero.

VERDICT: Line-drive single.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “I, I will be king.”

2) I WON’T BACK DOWN (Tom Petty)

Not being able to sing never really hurt Tom Petty’s career. Swisher does well on this song, but his earnestness doesn’t pay off as much as Petty’s nasal voice does in the original. The kids choir compares well to Tom Petty and The Heartbreaker’s harmonies. 

VERDICT: Double off the wall.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “Gonna stand my ground, and I won’t back down.”

3) WHERE THE GREEN GRASS GROWS (Tim McGraw)

Swisher does well singing with the kids choir. The rest sounds like 90% reading, 10% singing. This version made me realize Tim McGraw is a pretty damn good singer.

VERDICT: Groundout to second.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “I’m gonna live where the green grass grows.”

4) LEAN ON ME (Bill Withers)

Swisher’s best effort on the CD. He gives the lyrics the perfect emotional heft and lets the kids choir do its thing on the chorus. 

VERDICT: Home run.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “Lean on me, when you’re not strong/And I’ll be your friend/I’ll help you carry on.”

5) A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS (The Beatles)

Swisher shows almost as much range on this song as he does in the outfield. Sure, The Beatles wrote perfect pop songs so the template is there, but their songs can easily screwed up. Swisher shows he’s coachable, sounds great with the kids choir, and even walks off holding a high note. 

VERDICT: Double down the line.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “Would you believe in a love at first sight.”

6) EVERYDAY PEOPLE (Sly and the Family Stone)

Swisher’s shows he’s a team player by giving the kids choir the spotlight on this one. He’s merely a supporting player here. Maybe it’s his designated-hitter day as the kids take the field. He starts and finishes the song with aplomb, but this is the kids’ starring vehicle.

VERDICT: Triple.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “You love me you hate me/You know me and then/You can’t figure out the bag I’m in.”

7) PROUD MARY (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Here it sounds like Swisher is having the most fun, growling out the famous “rolling on the river” chorus. His band gets some extended action on center stage in a perfectly acceptable version  of CCR’s famous song.

VERDICT: Two-hop single to left.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “Left a good job in the city.”

8) TAKE ME HOME, COUNTRY ROADS (John Denver)

This song is certainly on the CD due to Swisher’s West Virginia roots. But it also exposes his lack of vocal chops. Even the kids choir can’t mask him on this one. This is where Eric Wedge would say Swisher is a grinder.

VERDICT: Pop out to short left.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON (for Swisher’s All-Star Break plans): “Country Roads, take me home/To the place I belong/West Virginia, mountain momma/Take me home, country roads.”

9) JOY TO THE WORLD (Three Dog Night)

Swisher screams this one as if he’s just downed three shots of whiskey. He’s not great in it, but the music and kids choir make this very danceable. 

VERDICT: Base on balls.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “I’m a high life flyer and a rainbow rider/A straight shootin’ son of a gun.”

10) HANG ON SLOOPY (The McCoys)

Better versions are heard nightly at frat parties in Columbus, just before everyone passes out. Still, here’s hoping this version gets played at some Indians games this season.

VERDICT: Fly out to the warning track.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “O-H-I-O”

11) JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH (Rolling Stones)

This is the song Swisher tries to most closely match his singing with the original, which is perfect because Mick Jagger is as much a singer as he is a baseball player.

VERDICT: Hot smash single up the middle.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas!”

12) BELIEVE (Bernie Williams)

Not a bad song for a couple of baseball players. The kids choir really makes this one.

VERDICT: Single up the middle.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: ”All things are possible if you believe.” (I.e., What if?)


Keeping 1995 alive in Chicago

August 30, 2010

For the past 15 years Cleveland fans have been wanting to relive the 1995 Indians. Well, everything but the ending. Turns out that anyone who wanted to relive that team needed neither a DVD player nor a hot tub time machine, but merely a trip to the South Side of Chicago.

If Manny Ramirez joins the Chicago White Sox — and it’s almost certain they will win him in the divorce of Los Angeles Dodgers owners — he’ll be the 10th member of the 1995 Indians team to eventually play for the White Sox. He’ll join another former 1995 Indian, Omar Vizquel, as the White Sox battle the Twins for first place in the American League Central.

Tribe fans have been begging the Dolan family for years to bring back one of the fan favorites from the Indians glory years of the 1990s. Let him play out his waning years in an Indians uniform. It will bring goodwill back to the Tribe, and maybe even a few fans back to Progressive Field.

Instead, those of us who wanted to remember the good teams might have been well-advised to follow the White Sox. Someone in Chicago must have followed the Indians of the 1990s. Since 1997 the White Sox have had at least one former member of the 1995 Indians all but two seasons. Some you remember, some you don’t, but one things clear — the heart and soul of that Tribe team all went through Chicago at one time or another.

Albert Belle was first. We remember when he left for the money, joining up with the White Sox in 1997 on a massive free-agent contract. He was joined on the ChiSox that season by Tony Pena. Belle lasted with the Sox until 1998. There was no former 1995 Indian on the 1999 squad. Two moved to Chicago in 2001 — Herbert Perry and Ken Hill. Hill pitched just two games for the White Sox, but he wore the uniform. In 2001, Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree joined Perry. Lofton and Alomar stuck around for the 2002 season. In 2003 and 2004 it was just Alomar on the White Sox. No 1995 Indian was on the team in 2005. In 2006 Chicago signed Jim Thome and Alomar rejoined the club. Thome stuck with them through last season. Vizquel joined at the beginning of this season. Now Ramirez is moments away from donning the White Sox’ pinstripes.

And let’s not forget Bartolo Colon, who started with the Indians in 1997, pitched in three different postseasons for the Tribe, and wound up going 15-13 for the White Sox in 2003.

Belle. Lofton. Thome. Alomar. Even Colon. Thay produced 603 homers, 1,814 RBI, 102 stolen bases, and 75 wins in Indians uniforms. Then they were gone when they still had plenty of productive years left.

So far, the only comeback we’ve seen in Cleveland is Kenny Lofton, who was last seen stopping at third base in the seventh inning of Game 7 of the ALCS — while Ramirez loped after a smash to left field that could have tied the game and, who knows, perhaps propelled the Indians back to the World Series. (Oh, and Jesse Levis, who came back in 1999 after three years in Milwaukee.) Part of the problem has been that the 1995 Indians who are still playing are just too damn good for the current iteration of the Indians. Vizquel’s batting .292 at 43 years old for the White Sox. Ramirez has been a headache for the Red Sox and the Dodgers since leaving the Tribe, but he’s won two World Series rings. Jim Thome, another guy we’d love to have back, keeps ripping homers. He’s up to 18 with the Twins this year.

Don’t count on any of them playing out the string for a losing Indians team next year, no matter how hard anyone begs. Why would quality players who can still contribute to teams in the pennant race want to waste time on one of the worst teams in baseball?

So if you want to party like it’s 1995, head down to Progressive Field before the White Sox leave town Wednesday. Ramirez will be there, and so will Omar. They’ll be in enemy clothing, but if you close your eyes and listen you can at least hear their names and pretend they’re not wearing White Sox uniforms, that one is a leap away from an game-saving diving play and the other is a swing away from a game-winning, and that the future is still bright for your Cleveland Indians.

1995 INDIANS WHO LATER PLAYED FOR THE WHITE SOX

  • Albert Belle: 1997-98, 302 games, .301 avg., 79 HRs, 268 RBI
  • Tony Pena: 1997, 31 games, .164 avg.
  • Herbert Perry: 2000-01, 201 games, .286 avg, 19 HRs, 93 RBI
  • Ken Hill: 2000, 2 games, 0-1, 24.00 ERA
  • Sandy Alomar: 2001-04, 2006, 265 games, .257 avg. 19 HRs, 94 RBI
  • Alan Embree: 2001, 39 games, 1-2, 5.03 ERA
  • Kenny Lofton: 2002, 93 games, .259 avg, 8 HRs, 42 RBI, 22 SBs
  • Jim Thome: 2006-09, 529 games, .265 avg., 134 HRs, 369 RBI
  • Omar Vizquel: 2010, 83 games, .292 avg., 1 HR, 25 RBI, 7 SBs (through Aug. 29)
  • Manny Ramirez: 2010

  • Don’t try this at home

    August 2, 2010

    We were all witnesses to what looked like another devastating blow to Cleveland sports Monday night. Prized Indians rookie catcher Carlos Santana was bowled over at home plate by Boston Red Sox rookie outfielder Ryan Kalish, then carted off the field.

    Any Clevelander with long-term memory immediately flashed to Ray Fosse being bowled over at home plate by Pete Rose in the 1970 All-Star Game. That collision broke a bone in Fosse’s shoulder. Some say it ruined a blossoming career.

    Before Monday Cleveland sports fans might have convinced themselves they just didn’t care anymore, not after everything that’s happened to our sports teams the last couple of years. Then the future of the Indians crumpled to the deck and was carted off the field.

    Cleveland fans crumpled right along with him, falling into the pose familiar to comic-book fans everywhere: hero on his knees, arms stretched toward the heavens while he’s screaming, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”

    In the past few months Cleveland fans have had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at them. Monday night, the kitchen sink ran over Santana, knocking him right out of his shoe. Santana stayed down for before trainers put a large orange splint on his leg and carted him off the field.

    No matter the outcome — after the game Indians officials said they didn’t believe Santana suffered any damage to his knee ligaments — Cleveland fans fear the worst. Monday night was a just-when-you-thought-it-couldn’t-get worse moment.

    Clevelanders can watch every Browns game this season, preseason included, and most likely not see a collision that looks worse than what Santana suffered.

    But look on the bright side, Indians fans. Kalish was out. The Indians won, 6-5. And Santana’s not dead, at least.

    Cleveland sports fans’ hopes? That’s a different story.


    Are you richer than a Cleveland Indian?

    May 5, 2010

     

    Nineteen of the 25 players on the Indians active roster as of Wednesday make less than a million dollars. (And this most assuredly won’t change if Luis Valbuena is shipped out before the Tribe plays again.) Meanwhile, this guy you never heard of just made more than each of those 19 players by playing a baseball video game. He did it by pitching the first perfect game on 2K Sports’ Major League Baseball 2K game. No word on if he did it against the virtual Indians.


    Now everyone hates Cleveland sports

    April 29, 2010

     

    It’s not just God who hates Cleveland sports anymore.

    Now it’s just about everyone.

    According to a Nielsen Co. Internet algorithm, the Cleveland Indians are the most hated team in baseball. That’s right, the Indians finally ranked ahead of the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees, and every other team in the AL Central.

    Predictably, New Yorkers are up in arms, claiming that the study doesn’t really rank which team is most hated. (We all know it’s the Yankees, unless Boston Red Sox fans count as a team.) It merely ranks “the correlation between positive and negative feelings generated by each team based on their starts to this season,” or something along those lines, Aaron Lewis, a communications director at Nielsen, told the New York Daily News. And who wouldn’t believe that a guy who could come up with a line like ““the correlation between positive and negative feelings generated by each team based on their starts to this season” is a communications director, and therefore correct?

    The algorithm is a bit more complicated than the one Nielsen uses to determine how many people watched American Idol on a given night. It measures things such as online message-board posts about the Indians and the rest of Major League Baseball, as well as the stupid things former Indian Mike Bacsik says on Twitter, to determine which teams got mocked the most.

    Most likely the algorithm just measured what the Indians’ own fans were writing about Jhonny Peralta. You can bet there’s not many other baseball fans talking about a team whose best player’s batting average has dropped four years straight. (That’s Grady Sizemore, unless Shin-Soo Choo has passed him.) There’s probably not much interest outside of the Cleveland area in a team whose designated hitter, Travis Hafner, is more of a designated whiffer with 17 strikeouts in 77 plate appearances. Who could imagine anyone west of the Mississippi – or heck, even the Cuyahoga – yapping it up about closer Chris Perez over beers?

    During awards ceremonies there’s usually a moment for the winners to give thanks to those who helped get them to the top spot. So before the orchestra plays us out, let’s thank those behind the Indians’ hate ranking:

    • Thank you to dgeneral, who wrote on the Cleveland.com message boards “Dolan death spiral has reached fever pitch. The misery of a Dolan ownership is a cruel cross to bare (sic) for Indians fans.”
    • Thank you to skatingtripods, who on TheClevelandFan.com message boards wrote “Grady Sizemore blows.” Yeah, that probably scored pretty high on the Nielsen algorithm.
    • And thank you to the Cleveland sports blogger, who have come up with names such as Cursed Cleveland; Cleveland Frowns; Mistake By The Lake; and Wait ‘Til Next Year, Again. Oh, and of course, God Hates Cleveland Sports.
    • But most of all, thank you, Cleveland Indians. Thank you, Larry Dolan, for buying high when you should have been lying low. Thank you for not being able to afford to run a major league franchise. Thank you, Mark Shapiro, for trading CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee in back-to-back seasons while getting back a bushelful of players who don’t even look good on paper. (Lou Marson? Michael Brantley? Jason Donald? Really?)  Thank you for giving a three-year contract to a manager whose only previous experience was guiding the Washington Nationals to hundreds of losses.

    Most hated team in baseball, and it’s not even a month into the season. Congratulations, Cleveland Indians! Looks like everyone else has finally caught up with God.


    The times that try Tribe fan’s souls

    October 28, 2009

    untitled

     

    It’s one thing to have your heart ripped out by your favorite sports team. But to lose your soul …

    That’s exactly what will happen tonight when Cleveland fans watch CC Sabathia pitch against Cliff Lee in Game 1 of the World Series — if they dare. You know who they’ll each be pitching for. (Hint: It’s not the Indians.) Just two years ago they were both ours, on the cusp of winning Cy Young awards and heralding a bright future for the Tribe. Now it’s just one long, dark winter.

    We used to have both those guys. Now we have Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Rob Bryson, Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson, Jason Donald, Jason Knapp. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh.

    Sabathia went 19-7 for the Indians in 2007, pitching a league-leading 241 innings while posting a 3.21 ERA. He won the Cy Young. Then he lost Game 5 of the ALCS to the Boston Red Sox when the Indians had a chance to clinch the pennant. Sabathia won only six more games in an Indians uniform. He was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers on July 7, 2008 for LaPorta, Brantley, Bryson, and the since-departed Zach Jackson. Then he (of course) signed with the Yankees for the 2009 season.

    Lee, meanwhile, was an Indians for barely another year. The Tribe traded him to the Phillies on July 29 of this year, receiving Carrasco, Marson, Donald, and Knapp. Fans are still howling.

    Sabathia was a foregone conclusion to leave. His contract was up at the end of 2007. The Indians weren’t going to be in on the bidding. They had missed their chance years earlier when they chose to give the money Sabathia would have commanded to Jake Westbrook and Travis Hafner. Once Sabathia hit free agency, his marriage to the Yankees was inevitable. His seven-year, $161 million contract was the richest ever signed by a pitcher. It’s the Yankee way. It will be heartbreaking to see Sabathia in Yankee pinstripes for Game 1 of the World Series.

    Watching Cliff Lee oppose him, though, will be soul-sucking. It didn’t have to be this way. The Indians didn’t have to trade Lee. The 2008 Cy Young winner (22-3, 2.54 ERA) was under contract via a 2010 club option for a very reasonable $8 million. You might as well have asked Indians owner Larry Dolan to pick up Terminal Tower with his bare hands and carry it to Euclid. The Indians traded Lee (and Victor Martinez), didn’t call it payroll shedding, and marched to a tie with the Royals for the worst record in the American League.

    When the Yankees finished off the Angels in Game 6 of the ALCS Sunday night it put Sabathia’s name on the marquee across from Lee for tonight’s game. For Cleveland fans, it was like receiving an invitation to you ex-fiance’s wedding. Do Tribe fans REALLY want to subject themselves to this?

    Let’s face it, if someone told an Indians fan at the beginning of the season that Cliff Lee would be pitching in Game 1 of the World Series, the reaction would have been, “For what team?” Now we know the answer: The Phillies. Against CC Sabathia and the Yankees. These are the times that Tribe fan’s souls are extinguished.

    ——

    Lorain Morning Journal Tribe beat writer Jim Ingraham thinks Cleveland fans have suffered enough.

    Indians GM Mark Shapiro is one part excited and one part bitter.

    Cleveland.com offers fans a chance to vote on who they will root for, who they believe will win, and whether they’d prefer to poke their eyes out with a sharp stick.

    Kevin Kernan of the New York Posts writes that it’s not easy for Indians fans to watch this World Series. Really, Kevin?

    Rich Hoffman of the Philadelphia Daily News says it’s only Tribe fans who could hate Game 1’s pitching matchup.

    Carl Willis tells Yahoo.com’s Tim Brown all about Sabathia’s ascent.

    CBSSports.com’s Scott Miller can see Cleveland cringe.


    An ug-Lee World Series on deck

    October 20, 2009

    ALCS Angels Yankees Baseball

    Nuclear holocaust in Cleveland is just eight days away. Surprisingly it doesn’t involve the Browns.

    No, we’re pretty much deadened to the fact that the Browns are going to get their butts whipped just about every time they step on the field — and that if they win it even Kanye West thinks it’s the worst game OF ALL TIME.

    This bomb will wipe that and any other Cleveland sporting disgust off the map. Mark your calendar and head to your nearest fallout shelter, i.e., your man cave with flat-screen television, for Oct. 28. That’s the first day of the 2009 World Series.

    That’s Cliff Lee against CC Sabathia.

    That’s armageddon.

    If Sabathia does his part tonight and beats the Los Angeles Angels, his New York Yankees will have a 3-1 ALCS lead. And if the Yankees take a 3-1 lead, bank on Sabathia vs. Lee in the opening game of the World Series. And Game 4. And Game 7, if necessary. You see, teams with a 3-1 lead in the league championship series are 22-6 all time. That gives both the Yankees and Phillies a 78% chance of making the World Series should Sabathia pitch the Yanks to victory tonight.

    Of course, Sabathia was on the last of those teams to blow a 3-1 lead. Clevelanders remember him losing to Josh Beckett in Game 5 of the 2007 ALCS, which started Boston’s comeback.

    And to think, the Indians started the 2008 season with BOTH these guys and could barely scrape out a .500 record.

    So mark Oct. 28 on your calendar. When game time rolls around  settle down in your favorite easy chair, and get ready to sulk. Make sure you turn out the lights because it’s sure to be one of the darkest moments in Cleveland sports history.

    To get you in the mood, here’s the stats of some postseason stats of some former Cleveland Indians …
    Ronnie Belliard: .308 average, .379 OBP, 1 RBI, 1 steal
    Casey Blake: .192 average, 2 RBI
    Mark DeRosa: .385 average, 1 RBI
    Ben Francisco: 0-for-4
    Maicer Izturis: .167, 2 RBI, 1 SB
    Ryan Ludwick: .333 average, 1 RBI
    Victor Martinez: .182 average, 2 RBI
    Manny Ramirez: .276 average, 1 HR, 4 RBI
    Jim Thome: 1-for-3

    Rafael Betancourt: 2.1 IP, 3.86 ERA
    Cliff Lee: 2-0, 0.74 ERA
    CC Sabathia: 2-0, 1.23 ERA

    Charlie Manuel: one World Series ring