Monday, February 27, 2012

Bill Veeck: Promotional Hatred as a Marketing Tool

In his autobiography Bill Veeck gives some advice on how to use the hatred of another organization to increase the take at the gate.  He says "The best advice I can give an aspiring young baseball operator is that if your going to hate another team in your league,do it right out there in the public where everyone can see you. Private hating stunts the personality, brings on ulcers and does not a blessed thing for the box office."

Veeck called it promotional hatred and it is tied very closely to both greed and geography. Next to a local rivalry the best baseball rivalry is the rematch between David and Goliath. Veeck says, "I would rather be David because the little man is always the public's darling. The little man can dart in and out with jabs and the jibes and the fancy footwork. And, oh yes, history tells us David is a big winner.  Had a good crowd, too.

The Indians should not shy away from their deficiencies but should take the role of David and build the Tigers up as Goliath. From the ownership, to the front office, to the manager and coaches, to the players.Manger Manny Acta said "we have some talent here, our focus is to win. When you are in a rebuilding process, you can see it from year to year. We're talented. It's not a fluke when you spend as long as we did in first place.". Chris Perez has come out and said "winning is the word this year. I don't want to compete. I want to win."

The one component missing from the equation laid out by Bill Veeck is the calling out of the Detroit Tigers. What do the Indians have to lose by fanning the flames of hatred? The Tigers represent both a geographical and greed (payroll) components - so why not go in with a roar?   If the Indians have to walk away in a whimper wasn't that expected by most anyways? Have some fun with it.

**The Indians and Tigers meet for the first time at Progressive Field May 22nd through May 24th.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bob Dibiasio Fails to Connect with the Fans

In regards to Bob Dibiasio's impromptu call in to Chuck Booms of CBS Radio 92.3 The Fan:

Never argue with a fool, onlookers listeners may not be able to tell the difference.

Case in point: the following dialogue from Bob Dibiasio:
This is the thing that drives us nuts...and I know people are going to crazy on this line...but people should be celebrating the Dolan ownership because without them and their willingness to deficit spend on a number of occasions  has stopped us from  being certain baseball teams that have been under .500 for fifteen - eighteen years. Teams that have been in last place in the central division for every year of the 17 years we've been in this division.

People should try and be objective once that's all we ask be objective once and look at  this from the other side--what would a size market like Cleveland which is the 22 teams fight this  economic fight that is major league baseball - and I know that a lot of the anger is because of the economics of baseballs crazy and they dump that on the Dolan ownership. - Bob Dibiasio
This old adage was never more true then when Bob Dibiasio took it upon himself to call a local radio station to defend the Cleveland Indians and specifically Paul Dolan who had made some questionable comments regarding the state of the franchise in an interview with Andy Baskin and Jeff Phelps the previous day: The Paul Dolan Buzzkil Interview .

Bob Dibiasio has the title Senior Vice President, Public Affairs. With the exception of 1 year he has worked in the Indians Public Relations department since 1979 and is a native of the region growing up in Lakewood, Ohio. This interview suggests to me that Dibiasio views himself more as a protector of the Dolan way and less of a voice of the fans.

In this interview he sells the results of the Dolan business model as a positive or at the least a necessity, blames more of MLBs economics of the game for failure to produce winning seasons, and suggest that we should be grateful of the Dolan ownership because without his willingness to deficit spend we'd be locked in the same situation as the Pirates, Royals, and Orioles.

And a question for 92.3 The Fan - Is Chuck Booms the best you can do to discuss baseball on your station? To be fair, I am not a listener to the station and am forming an opinion based on this one 15 minute interview but after about 5 minutes of dialogue I was completely amazed that a show with such little substance is allowed on the air.

A number of topics are discussed after the break and it is pointed out where Chuck Booms was unintelligent and incorrect as well as when Dibiasio was out of his realm of expertise, making excuses, or incorrect are discussed after the break. The full interview can be heard here: Chuck Booms takes on Bob Dibiasio.

Before preceding, I'd like to say that I am Cleveland Indians fan. I have no problem with the fiscal approach the organizations takes as I fully understand the economic realities of baseball. I do not believe that the answer to the Cleveland Indians problems is spending money. The answer to the Indians problems will be to follow the Twins model of the late 90's early 2000's and that is a strong commitment to the farm system. The Indians will be unable to create the honeymoon fervor that they had in the late 90's but they can certainly create a new relationship with the fans and to do this the Public Relations department may need a 100% re-training.

Dibiasio, Dolan, and the rest of those affiliated with the Cleveland Indians need to change the dialogue. Explain why the team is going to get better, not why it isn't. Explain why the front office is excited about the future, not lamenting it.

The PR Department needs to be schooled on so much more than just what works against the Indians and need to know how to communicate their direction to the average fan in an easy to understand language.  Don't ever compare the teams success to that of the teams that have failed in the past - discuss how you are going to compete moving forward and catch those teams in front of you. This should be obvious to the entire Indians front office after having a seasoned PR man taken to task by an ill-informed hack of a radio host.

Some of the items discussed after the break:
  • The Dolan's financed the top payrolls in club history.
  • Jacobs willingess to stay on the heels of the Yankees in terms of spending.
  • The success and ability of the Minnesota Twins to remain competitive and retain players.
  • The discussion as to whether the Indians can afford a 20-25 million dollar a year player.
  • Retaining Asdrubal Cabrera or Shin-Soo Choo.
  • Failure of the Dolan's to make any money and even a lot of years of losses of 3-7 million per year.
  • Forbes value of the Indians (and other) teams (video included).
  • The market economics and deficit spending of the Detroit Tigers.
  • How the outcomes of two games since 2000 would of changed the conversation about the Dolan ownership.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Paul Dolan Buzzkill Interview

Recently Paul Dolan sat down with Andy Baskin and Jeff Phelps of 92.3 The Fan for an interview to talk Cleveland Indians baseball. The interview started off discussing the upcoming Indians season and the hopes for a memorable year. This was going to be a softball interview and was an opportunity for Paul Dolan to discuss his team, his players, and how the team is going to win games and bring the pennant to Cleveland in 2012. 

Instead, there was very little discussion of the Cleveland Indians upcoming season and certainly with 25 minutes of air time a fan like myself should have walked away from the interview optimistic about baseball not angry at the Chairman and CEO of the team. 

Dolan seems to know more about the Detroit Tigers finances, what would be good for them, and the negative impact of their offseason moves on MLB than he does about the contract status of the Indian players. He also spends a lot of time complaining (close to whining) about the lack of a salary cap and unfair revenue sharing in the game. Paul Dolan rather than play the role of David and set up the large revenue teams as Goliath chooses to send the message of unfairness, inequality, and the only way the Indian could be a competitive franchise is if MLB steps in and weakens the Goliath's. 

The one thing that Paul Dolan hasn't managed to completely eliminate from the Cleveland Indians is the fans enthusiasm for winning baseball. The team wins, the fans will flock to the stadium, tune in on the radio, and watch the game on television. As long as this enthusiasm exists the Indians franchise can flourish even under this ownership group. If the Dolan family continues to allow Paul Dolan to be a spokesman for the team than that fandom/winning bond will become more and more fragile.

This critique is in no way a reflection on what the Indians did this past offseason or an attempt to suggest that the team will not or can not be competitive in 2012. It is simply a look at at the CEO who somehow manages to turn a softball interview into a negative response from the listener.

The interview begins with a question as to how he is looking forward to the season. 
He talks about how excited he is about the 2012 season. He says that there is great optimism because last year going into the season there were very low expectations and we (Indians) were the best team in baseball for a good portion of the season. 
Best team in baseball for good portion of the season? On June 15th the Indians had the AL's best record at 34-25. Some, including myself, may argue that 59 games out of 162 which is slightly over 36% of games does not constitute a good portion of the season. Maybe he meant days in first place in the AL Central where the Indians were in first place for a total of 85 games which is slightly over 50% of games? 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Around the AL Central: Spring Training & Rule 4 Draft

photo from
Spring Training is always an exciting time and it's a time when managers and players alike believe that thei team is in contention for the playoffs (even Shin-Soo Choo last year). Manny Acta held court out in Goodyear, Arizona. Jordan Bastian provided the quotes  at  Acta believes that the rebuilding is done and now it is time to provide the fans of the Indians a memorable season:
"I went through a few years where I was working on a rebuilding process," Acta said. "And now, with what we went through here last year, it's going to continue to head in the right direction. Baseball excites me, but I have an opportunity finally to be in the thick of things.

"It's always a better feeling after the game when you win than when you lose. Obviously, we have a chance to win more times than we lose now."
Lewis Pollis of WahoosOnFirst discovered an interesting story in USA Today's Sports Weekly. The story highlighted the "100 Athletes You Need To Know." The Sports Weekly's staff listed the players who had more innings or plate appearances in the minors last year than in their entire MLB careers. The list included Chisenhall, Kipnis, Ezequiel Carrera, Jeanmar Gomez, Nick Hagadone, and Cord Phelps.

 Baseball America has released the 2012 June Draft Aggregate Bonus Pools.
As part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams are now assigned an aggregate signing bonus pool for their picks in the first 10 rounds of the draft. Each has a predetermined value, from $7.2 million for the No. 1 choice to $125,000 for pick No. 300 and any subsequent ..
The Twins have the most picks (13) in the first 10 rounds and have the highest overall pool of $12,368,00. The Royals have 10 picks and a pool of $6,101,500, the White Sox have 11 picks and a pool of $5,915,100, the Indians have 10 picks and a pool of $4,582,900, and the Tigers have 10 picks and a pool of $2,099,300.  The total aggregate pool for 2012 draft picks is valued at $189,903,500 while the total bonuses paid in the first 10 rounds in 2011 was $191,876,250
Any team that exceeds its bonus pool by 0-5 percent must pay a 75 percent tax on the overage. The penalties escalate, with a 75 percent tax and the loss of a first-round pick for a 5-10 percent overage; a 100 percent tax and the loss of first- and second-rounders for a 10-15 percent overage; and a 100 percent tax and the loss of two first-rounders for an overage of 15 percent or more.
From around the AL Central:
  • Michael Engel of Kings of Kauffman presents the Royalman Report hosted by Tory "Royalman" Olsen & Michael Engle and this week's podcast includes Danny Duffy and Gar Ryness (The Batting Stance Guy).  
  • RoyalsReview presents their Royals Pre-Spring Training Chatter which includes a number of links around the Royals blogosphere and more from the AL Central.
  • look at the Tigers draft bonus pool.
  • John Verburg at MCB Motor City Bengals takes a look at 9 10 Rookie of the Year Candidates.
  • Nate Gilmore at Puckett's Pond looks at Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier. 
  • Matt Adams of SouthsideShowdown discusses Manny Being Manny and his comeback with the A's.
  • From last week, Joe Cowley of the Sun Times interviewed former White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker who suggested that the 2011 season was doomed before it got started. Rob Neyer of SBNation chimed in with his opinion of Walker's statements.  

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Around the AL Central: Spring Training Begins as Players Trickle In

Finally, the last Sunday off Indians offseason is upon us. Pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Spring Training tomorrow morning for physicals and Tuesday is the first workout.  Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) on Twitter he has already spotted Chris Perez, Josh Tomlin, Grady Sizemore, Jack Hannahan, Ryan Spilborghs, Frank Herrmann, Nick Hagadone, Corey Kluber, Dan Wheeler, Kevin Slowey, Russ Canzler Joe Smith, and Chris Ray. He also reports that their will be 61 players in camp(62 if Garland signs) and 2 lockers have already been doubled up for four players to share.
  • Paul Cousineau at the DiaTribe presents a look at all the questions surrounding the Indians that will need to be answered in the Arizona sun.
  • Lew Pollis at WahoosOnFirst presents the Weekly Wroundtable and the discussion centers on what to look for at Spring Training for the Indians.
  • Tony Lastoria at IndiansProspectInsider looks at the Indians acquisition of Jon Garland, discusses Jeanmar Gomez opportunity to win the 5th starters job, and the decision to DFA Kelvin DeLa Cruz.
  • Jordan Bastian of reports that Jon Garland and the Indians have not reached agreement yet and his status with the Indians is still up in the air.
  • Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune profiles Joe Mauer in his quest to overcome all of the injuries that he labored through in 2011.
  • Nate Gilmore at Puckett's Pond looks at 5 things the Twins fans can look forward to this spring.
  • John Verburg at MCB Motor City Bengals looks far past spring training and into the mid-summer trade deadline and suggests the Tigers may be a busy team.
  • Tom Gage at the Detroit News reports that Miguel Cabrera has arrived in camp early and is in tremendous shape (picture included).
  • Royals Review asks the question: Are the Royals better than the Twins?"
  • Southside Sox takes a look at the White Sox PECOTA projections. (Wonder what the hell PECOTA is? Click Here).
Finally, here is a look at the reporting dates around the AL Central:
  • Minnesota Twins - February 18, 2012 - Fort Meyers, Florida - Position Players - February 23, 2012
  • Detroit Tigers - February 19, 2012 - Lakeland, Florida - Position Players - February  23, 2012
  • Kansas City Royals - February 20, 2012 - Surprise, Arizona - Position Players - February  24, 2012
  • Cleveland Indians - February 20, 2012 - Goodyear, Arizona - Position Players -  February  23, 2012
  • Chicago White Sox - February 22, 2012 - Glendale, Arizona - Position Players - February 27, 2012

Saturday, February 11, 2012

No Reason to be Pessimistic About The Indians Offseason.

Some will point to the moves the Indians made this winter as an indictment against the Indians front office and say its more evidence that the team does not want to contend.  Despite the increase in opening day payroll from 49M in 2011 to somewhere in the 63M-70M range in 2012 (depending on the Carmona [RHH] outcome) the same segment of fans will suggest that the ownership is more interested in collecting welfare from MLB than in investing in the on-field product.

These same group of fans will only see spending on brand name players as the only way to close the gap on the rest of the competition and would show the fans that they are serious about winning. Anything short of multiple brand name signings or trading prospects for higher priced brand names reverts the argument back  to the opening paragraph..don't want to win, cheap owner, etc.

Whether a fan is happy with the moves the Indians made or disgruntled by them the trust factor that the front office is trying to field a competitive team that can challenge for a division title should not be a question up for debate. What the Indians front office is banking on is the following:

1. A healthy and productive return of Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo.

2 Ubaldo Jimenez straightens himself out and reverts back to the top of the rotation pitcher he was in Colorado.

3. Justin Masterson continues to develop and is closer to his first half performance than his second half performance.  

4.  Carlos Santana continues to develop in his second full big league season and becomes an even bigger middle of the order bat.

5. Asdrubal Cabrera has a 2012 season that matches his 2009/2011 seasons.

6. Lonnie Chisehnall advances and at some point during the season takes over as the everyday 3b and sprays line drives from gap to gap at Progressive Field.

7. Michael Brantley finally steps up, stays healthy, and has a breakout year.

8. Jason Kipnis shows that he is an above average second baseman with all-star potential.

9. The  bullpen will be able to effectively work as many innings as necessary to overcome the lack of quality starting pitching.

10. Casey Kotchman provides stellar defense at 1b and saves the team numerous unearned runs and errors that force the starting pitchers to make more pitches hastening their exit (see #9).

11. Derek Lowe can survive pitching in the AL, pitch to a below league average FIP, and avoid the 2011 September collapse.

All of these things probably won't happen but the Indians front office is hoping that enough of them materialize, enough to carry the team through until the trade deadline with the team in contention.  From there they can add and supplement the roster as needed.

You never know what can happen at that point - remember the Detroit Tigers were only 51-46 when they made the deal to acquire Wilson Betemit on July 20th and were only 56-51 when they made the trade for Doug Fister at the trade deadline. Believe it or not they still only held a 2-game lead with a record of 64-57 when they acquired Delmon Young on August 15th.

Fister, Betemit, and Young weren't on the February 2011 Tigers roster and the 2011 Tigers hadn't done much over the first 4 months of the season except play near .500 baseball. From there the Tigers took full advantage of a schedule that from August 5th to the end of the season saw them matched up against one team with a record over .500.

Friday, February 10, 2012

What the Hell is PECOTA?

To those who would like a quick entertaining primer to the PECOTA projection system used by Baseball Prospectus.

A look at the Indians Projections can be found at WahoosOnFirst (HERE)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Indians and Left Handed Starters

The 2012 Indians everyday lineup will have switch hitters Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera and the remaining lineup will be comprised of left handed hitters. This has led to a lot of deep concerns about what happens when a left handed pitcher is on the mound to start a game worse yet, what about late in games when teams go to their left handed relief pitchers. Does Jason Donald, Shelly Duncan, Aaron Cunningham, and Lou Marson provide enough flexibility off the bench to balance the scales of the late inning matchup.

Let's look at the left handed starting pitchers first. The Indians may face up to 25 different left handed pitchers during the year. Out of the 26 starting pitchers listed below several won't be in their teams respective rotations but have been included on the list (see Baltimore Orioles and Oakland A's). Additionally, the Indians face the Miami Marlins in 1 series and it isn't set in stone that the team will face Mark Buehrle likewise Erik Bedard with Pittsburgh.

Second, the concern that the Indians flexibility to handle matchups late in games. Historically, teams that have a lead after 6 innings of play win around 85% of the time. The data below was presented at a SABR conference in Cincinnati in 2004 by David W. Smith in a project titled:  Coming from Behind: Patterns of Scoring and Relation to Winning   Data collected includes the results of 73 seasons.

I know what you're thinking....great, but what about close games after 6 innings etc. The graph below shows a teams winning percentage with 1, 2, 3, and 4 run leads after each inning.

Team Win% When Leading After Inning

In 2011 the Indians had a .875 winning percentage with a record of 56-8 when leading after 6 innings, .938% when leading after 7 with a record of 61-4, and a .955% when leading after 8 with a record of 64-3.

When looking at the Tigers who won the 2011 AL Central crown. They had a winning percentage of .934 when leading after 6 with a record of 71-5, 100% when leading after 7 with a record of 77-0, and 100% when leading after 8 with a record of 83-0.

The takeaway from this isn't the winning percentage between the two teams. The takeaway should be the frequency that the Indians led after 6, 7, and 8 innings as compared to the Tigers. The Tigers had a lead 76 times after 6 innings while the Indians had only 64 games.

The best way for the Indians to deflate the oppositions left-handed matchup is to make the opposition go to their bullpen to try and keep the Indians from extending a lead rather than protecting their own. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Jason Kipnis on MLB Network Radio

Indians Starting Pitching Analysis on MLB Radio

Russ Canzler: Internet Sensation?