Bullpens, fandom, Rock & Roll and Wrestling…
This week’s Sunday Drive delves into what the Indians should do with their supposed staff ace, Justin Masterson. It’s not a new question, but it’s certainly one that many didn’t think we’d be asking in 2014, a contract year. We also take a closer look at Jarrett Jack’s contract. While most hammer it as a less-than-frugal spending of money the Cavaliers could certainly use, it may be more “in-line” than most think. We also take a look at the recent WWE releases, including Josh Mathews in particular, the top five live rock albums, and why Josh Gordon and LeBron James aren’t my besties, but are sure wonderful to watch play sports.
Welcome to Sunday Drive, where hopping from one stone to the next is our favorite sport….
Would moving Justin Masterson to the bullpen be farfetched?–Steve Orbanek
The Cleveland Indians have a problem.
Not including Saturday’s result, the team’s record sits at 41-44. They’re eight games back in the American League Central and 5.5 games back in the AL Wild Card race.
These next few weeks are going to be telling as the Indians try to figure out whether they’ll be buyers or sellers at the July 31st trade deadline. You’d think they’d be in buy mode, but their record and uninspiring play certainly does not mirror that of a contending team.
While the offense has been inconsistent, the Indians still rank ninth in the MLB in runs scored. The greater problem is the starting rotation, which really has been up-and-down aside from the frequent great performances from Corey Kluber.
Overall, the Indians rank 24th in ERA with a poor 4.03. It’s a significant difference from last year when the team finished 15th in the MLB with an ERA of 3.82.
One of the biggest culprits in regard to the Indians’ pitching woes has been “staff ace” Justin Masterson. Coming off a season in which he went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA, big things were expected from Masterson.
Unfortunately, he’s struggled greatly this season. He currently owns a 5.16 ERA in 18 starts and his velocity has been down considerably; he’s averaged just 90.6 miles per hour on his fastball compared to 93.1 in 2013.
The Indians’ starting pitching has to get better if the team is to have a chance of contending, and we know that there are really no viable trade targets. That became even more true this past weekend when the Oakland Athletics acquired both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs.
So, what exactly are the Indians to do?
One positive is that the team has two internal options in Zach McAllister and Danny Salazar. Both players were injured earlier this season, but they seem to be regaining their form as members of the Columbus Clippers’ rotation.
In six starts with the Clippers, McAllister has a 2.60 ERA in 34.2 innings and is striking out 8.6 batters per nine innings. Salazar has also performed well as he’s allowed a combined three earned runs in his last two starts while fanning 16 batters.
These players might be able to provide the internal boost that the Indians need, but there has to be room for them.
This then brings us back to Masterson.
Would a move to the bullpen be the worst thing in the world?
We know that Masterson has experience pitching in the bullpen, and he’s succeeded in that role. This might also help serve as the perfect confidence booster. And we could also see his velocity gain a tick or two in this type of role.
The bottom line is that Masterson has now made 18 starts and is averaging just 5.1 innings per start. That’s a far cry from a guy who has made his mark as an innings eater. One has to believe that both Salazar and McAllister could easily replicate that mark.
Moving Masterson to the bullpen is not the key to solving all of the Indians’ problems, but it is a suggestion. And right now, this team could use as many of those as we can get.
Jarrett Jack’s contract isn’t as ridiculous as you think–John Grimm
Cleveland signed a four-year, $25 million dollar deal for a back-up point guard. Nobody was ever over-sold on the impact of the contract: even the bullish evaluations of Jack never harbored the delusion that he was anything but a backup point guard. A backup point guard for whom great expectations were held, granted, but a backup nonetheless.
Like the overwhelming majority of free agent contracts, however, the Jack contract conceived regrets. And ultimately, while it is a contract that has received peculiar attention for limiting the Cavaliers’ cap space, it is no more constricting than any other contract, merely a worse fit than most.
Consider briefly: Shaun Livingston signed for 3 years, $16M. For cap purposes (not salary tax purposes, but cap purposes generally) past salaries are merely a part of the past. Viewed in this context, the Jack contract is merely a three-year, $19M contract. Given that both Livingston and Jack both function, effectively, in the same role, a comparison is appropriate.
In terms of dollars, Jack’s contract is $1M more expensive per year; Jack will make $6.3M per year in contrast to Livingston’s $5.3M per annum.
There are certain advantages, moreover, that Livingston has which Jack does not. Jack, a 28-year-old, is younger than the 30-year-old Jack. Livingston’s most recent season, additionally, saw a greater eFG% than Jack’s most recent season. Recency and age are on Livingston’s side.
Yet there’s a fairly compelling advantage in the favor of Jack otherwise. Livingston, while younger, has one 70-GP season under his belt. While Livingston’s 2013-14 season was better offensively, Jack’s career eFG% is higher than Livingston’s by a margin of .487 to .468. Recency bias dictates that the most recent event is the one that should be granted the greatest evaluative priority; it is full careers, however, that set the tone for what regression is likely to look like.
Jack, in all likelihood, may be a better investment going forward than Livingston by virtue of general durability and better career performance. It’s not an invincible argument, but it’s one with substantial backing behind it; the difference, moreover, between the two is $1M per year.
The Jack contract may be bad, but it’s not egregiously worse than other FA contracts being given out even at present. If the moral of the story is that free agent contracts are a simple waste of money, it would be a lesson well-taken. But given the nonsense of the market – and the nonsense of putatively offering Gordon Hayward max money – Jack’s contract is not so much worse than the array of deals being offered that it makes Jarrett Jack unmovable.
Not, obviously, that there’s any context to this in terms of Cleveland’s Free Agent plans. Nothing at all.
WWE Releases the esteemed Josh Mathews–Brian Andrews
Okay, guys, I’m with you on this journey this week. I wanted to touch on something that’s kind of just fallen under the radar for some reason. Most of us wrestling guys are aware of the recent wave of releases. JTG, Aksana, Evan Bourne, Teddy Long, Yoshi Tatsu…
But more than that, who else gets released?
I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
That’s crap. I want to know the reason he was released. That man has never been anything else besides an “A” player as far I’m concerned. He’s always been professional, he’s always put forth effort. Over the past couple of years I’ve really been able to appreciate Josh, and I think that’s way more important than being liked. I mean, did you watch Are You Serious? Watch them all, now. Honor the journey of this original Tough Enough contestant.
Now, I have nothing against his apparent successor, Renee Young. She’s been around for quite a long time as well. I enjoy her work on NXT especially but she is finding her traction on the big shows as well. I just don’t understand why Josh had to go. He was a welcome break from the normally deplorable commentary on the big shows, and I thought he was prime to take over for Michael Cole when the time came.
Now it’s over.
I uh… wish Josh the best in his future endeavors.
The definitive list of the top five live rock albums that you need to own–John “Bojar” Bojarski
In addition to having the title of editor and contributor, part of my role is to tell you how to live your life. So, here’s a definitive list of the top five live rock albums that you need to own right now. The list is final, and you can take it to the bank (NOTE: The list is not final nor does it have any official standing, and do not take it to any bank, it is not legal tender).
1. The Who “Live at Leeds” (1970)
Guitarist Pete Townshend, child porn or not, really knew how to tear it up back in the day. It’s no wonder he’s deaf these days. With Townshend’s guitar isolated to the left speaker, bassist John Enwistle runs wild in the right speaker, nearly as loud. Keith Moon plays “lead drums.” Roger Daltrey sounds a bit tired, but he still has a pretty impressive roar. Compared to the heavily orchestrated studio sound, this is punk rock.
- Kiss “Alive!” (1975)
Forget the critics and forget what a joke this “band” has become today. A big chunk of the record was recreated in the studio, but this can be forgiven since it just sounds so much better than the slow and stiff performances on the band’s early studio albums. The guitars are louder, the vocals are wilder and the banter between songs is ludicrous (Stanley: “How many of ya’ll … like to take a taste of alcohol!”)
- Judas Priest “Unleashed in the East” (1979)
Do you like diamond hard guitars? Do you like when a live song is played just as it was in the studio? Do you like leather? Then you like “Unleashed in the East.” The version of “Victim of Changes” is definitive, much better than the soupy version found on “Sad Wings of Destiny.” If you’re feeling a bit more Celtic, you can replace this with Thin Lizzy “Live and Dangerous.”
- Rolling Stones “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out” (1970)
This is slightly overrated, but still remarkable. You won’t find “Satisfaction,” but you get two Chuck Berry covers and a guitar-based version of “Sympathy for the Devil.” Keith Richards may be the most famous guitarist in the group, but this album shows off the Stone’s best second guitarist, the dour Mick Taylor. The bass intro to “Live With Me” is absent, leaving you little reason to believe that Bill Wyman actually exists.
- Roughly everything else
Five is too easy. Fill in the blank yourself. “Cheap Trick at Budokan” has a lot of supporters, but I have limited experience with it. Same with Iron Maiden’s “Live After Death” or Deep Purple’s “Made in Japan.” Nirvana’s “MTV Unplugged in New York” is remarkable, but I just don’t want to include acoustic albums (the band’s electric live album, “From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah,” is OK, but the most “rock and roll” moment on that album is when Kurt Cobain screams to introduce the album). Led Zeppelin is a top 3 band, but it did not necessarily excel live, unless the attendees were stoned (and they were, for the most part).
Joey Chestnut is Plain Jane–Sam Chapman
Another fourth of July has passed, and a familiar face hoists the Nathan’s “mustard yellow” belt in Brooklyn’s Coney Island. The past eight years have seen Joey Chesnut rise from obscurity to become the most famous competitive eater on the planet. “Jaws” has been champion for the eight years, an unprecidented number of titles, topping cycling Lance Armstrong’s 7 Tour de France wins or Michael Jordan’s six championships.
If Joey Chesnut is the “Michael Jordan” of competitive eating, than Takeru Kobayashi was the Magic Johnson or Larry Bird before him. Kobayashi changed the game of hot dog eating, downing 50 HDB (hot dogs and buns) in 2001, his first year at Coney Island. To put this in perspective, the previous year’s winner ate only 25 1/8 HDB. This is the equivalent of someone shattering Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point scoring record with a 199 point performance.
Kobayashi has been absent from Coney Island the last few years. He was last seen during his infamous arrest, live on televison following the event in 2010. It seems as if the MLE (Major League Eating) have portrayed Kobayashi as a villan, a sore-loser who is jealous of Joey Chesnut’s fame.
The ESPN broadcast of the event has failed to leave out such details of Kobayashi’s contract disputes with Major League Eating. MLE tried to get Kobayashi to sign exclusive contract that would prevent him from competing in events not sponsored by them. Kobayashi is a worldly eater, making copious amounts of money eating things ranging from buffalo wings to cow brains. Allegedly MLE’s contract demands were ridiculous, and would hold Kobayashi’s earnings to $40,000 annually. If this is true, MLE was channeling Vince McMahon during Survivor Series ’97, with Joey Chestnut playing the part of Shawn Michaels and Kobayashi as Bret Hart.
In a sport filled with a colorful cast of characters, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut is quite “plain Jane,” vanilla ice cream. He wears no face paint like “Eater X” Tim Janus. He does not have the hip-hop aspirations of “Badlands” Booker. He lacks the Counting Crows-esque hair of “Crazy Legs” Conti. Competitive eating isn’t Joey Chesnut’s life; he views it as a nice paycheck right now with plans of pursing construction managment in the years to come.
With no end to Kobayashi’s contract dispute in sight, the chances we see the two men stand next to each other on the fouth of July stage at Coney Island dwindles. Kobayashi ate an astonishing 112 hot dogs without buns during his annual protest demonstration on a Manhattan rooftop. It seems that Chestnut and Kobayashi are fans of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquio, not giving the fans what they want.
Chesnut’s quest for a ninth straight “mustard yellow” belt may be his hardest yet as he has the “Megatoad” Matt Stonie nipping at his heels.
Being a sports fan is special…I firmly believe that.
My life is marked by World Series runs and playoff failures and big drafts and regular season folly and home runs and National Championships and free agency failures that truly are transcendental to me.
I love the competitive nature of sports.
I love the athletic prowess and the bravado and the potential that every sporting event brings.
That’s why I watch the U.S. Men’s National soccer team when they are representing the country. That’s why I watch cross country skiers with guns slung across their backs during the Winter Olympics. That’s why I went to both the Men and Women’s U.S. Golf Open. That’s why I attended a NASCAR even just last night.
Where am I going with this?
Yesterday, the Cleveland Brown’s Josh Gordon was arrested for a DWI right down the street from me here in Raleigh, NC. You seriously can’t make this stuff up. Gordon, who has spent much of his “adult” life making similar mistakes since his days at Baylor, can’t seem to make the right choices.
To be sure, Gordon made the wrong choice at 3:00 A.M. in the morning on streets of Raleigh, when he allegedly decided to drive while intoxicated.
He’s an idiot…but I keep coming back to that word: choices, and less about his, and more about mine.
I don’t know Josh Gordon, the person. He’s not a friend of mine, and likely, never will be. He’s a professional athlete that I had the honor of watching absolutely decimate the NFL last season in a performance from a Cleveland Browns’ receiver that had never been seen before…
That doesn’t make me his friend. That doesn’t make me his judge, or his jury, or his executioner. It makes me a fan of professional football.
Josh Gordon, the player, is sublime. Josh Gordon, the person, is screaming for help. That’s probably a nice way to say “screw-up.”
Now clearly, they are the same person. My point was only to clarify that that while frustrated in the choices that this young man has made over the the past two or three years, he’s still just an athlete that I don’t know much more than some person that I walk by in a mall.
I’ll continue to hope that Gordon, the player, returns some day to perform football at a high level. I also hope that Gordon, the human being, gets the help he needs in his personal life so that his “choices” become easier, and “mistakes” become less publicized. If that leads him back to the NFL, so be it. If that leads him down a different, successful path, even better.
I do find it interesting that LeBron James is another former Cleveland athlete dominating the current news cycle. I’m not going to rehash LeBron’s story, because we already know it.
LeBron may come “home” to Cleveland, and many are pushing hard for that to happen, including me.
Like Josh Gordon, I don’t know LeBron James. Like Josh Gordon, I was honored to watch him grace the Gund and Quicken Loans arena for seven years, and was able to watch him in high school a few times prior. He’s an amazing basketball player.
But I don’t know him.
If he chooses to come back to his home state and play, I’ll be ecstatic. It’s not often that the best of an era plays in any city, let alone Cleveland. If he chooses to go somewhere else, that’s a “choice” that is his to make.
I don’t know him, so I have no idea what his criteria truly is. The basketball player wants to win titles and to create a legacy on the court, but what does the Dad or the Husband or the Man want? I don’t know.
I never will.
I don’t take anything that athlete’s do personally, because I’m a sports’ fan, not a confidant, and I’m just fine with that.