Cowboys and Indians
Only 28 games remain for the 2011 Indianapolis Indians and the club hits the road for a three city 8 game road trip. At 60-56 the Tribe is 5 games out in the wild card race. Twenty-four of the remaining 28 games are against the West Division with 12 of the 24 against the Louisville Btas. Will the Tribe make it to the post season for the first time since 2006? It will not be easy and even if the Indians win 18 or 19 of their final games they will still need other teams to stumble and fall back to the pack. Since 2005 the wild card winner has won at least 77 games. Here are the win totals since ’05: 78, 79, 77, 85, 81, and 79. You can do the math and see that the ’11 campaign comes down to the final 4 weeks of the season. I believe the Indians want to make the playoffs for two reasons. The postseason is a goal for manager Dean Treanor. He manages to win and he comes to the park each day to win and push his players to win. The players check the standings everyday and see their time is running out. They will push hard the next four weeks for themselves and their skipper.
The other driving force is to prove the early season critics wrong. Most of the players walked into the Indians clubhouse with championship rings from the past two seasons. The core of the opening day roster won Class-A rings in ’09 and a Double-A ring in ’10. After the 1-8 start it was clear the young players were in over their heads and in for what looked like a long season. I’ll admit that during the third week of the season I worried they wouldn’t win 50 games. Over time the hitters adjusted and the pitching improved and it’s a reflection of the coaching staff and the character of the players. A trip to the postseason would be memorable, but at the least it would be nice to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2006.
The Indians and Toledo Mud Hens have a great rivalry and this year Toledo has the early bragging rights winning 8 of the 15 meetings. There are still 6 games to be played and for a few players there is more than bragging rights on the line.
There are a total of 5 former Oklahoma State Cowboys who have played in this series. Indians 1B Matt Hague, SS Jordy Mercer, and C Jason Jaramillo all played ball at Okie St. Hens LHP Andy Oliver and CF Jeff Salazar also wore the black and orange during their college career. Hague played only one year in Stillwater after playing the first three years of his college career at Washington. “It was the best decision I could have made. I took some heat when I left UW because I’m from there, but I wanted a chance to play for a National Championship and OSU was the stop.” Hague was also considering Clemson and Texas, but a hard sell by Jordy Mercer brought him Oklahoma State. “I first met Matt during summer ball and I knew he would love the school. We were going to have a good team why would you go to Clemson or UT when you can play for the Cowboys?”
“We were loaded that year and Jordy was right. It was awesome, we were ranked 5th in the county (2008 season) and Oliver was a stud. So many of the guys on that team were drafted and are still playing pro ball. I can’t believe we were upset before Omaha, that still upsets me to this day.” Hague and his Cowboys were knocked off the weekend before the College World Series.
It was the only season Hague would play in the Big 12 and while Mercer has a solid full career for the Cowboys. “Baseball is the third spot at the school. Football is the money-maker and basketball has had some nice runs, but for my money Oklahoma State is a baseball school.” Mercer was a pitcher and SS and he has been Hague’s teammate ever since. “It was neat and exciting when Hague and I were drafted by the Pirates (both picked in June 2008). He a great friend of mine and I’m glad he came to OSU.”
A HALL OF FAME TEAMMATE:
Over the weekend Deion Sanders was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (Side note, I’m from Akron and the pro football Hall of Fame might be my favorite place on earth. Please go visit if you’ve never had the chance) “Prime Time” won two Super Bowls and should be regarded as one of, if not the best cover corner to every play the game. In addition to his NFL career Sanders was a pretty good baseball player and once hit a home run in the ’93 World Series and scored a touchdown in the same week.
Indians hitting coach Jeff Branson and Sanders played together during their Cincinnati days. “Deion was a great teammate. All of that extra prime time stuff was just an act. In the clubhouse he was just one of the guys and a real solid hard worker.” Branson does admit that between the lines Deion was a showman and prime time, but behind closed doors he was the absolute opposite. “Prime time was how he made his money and I personally didn’t think he particularly enjoyed the limelight. After games all of the reporters would come to him and he quickly pushed them over to the guys who did something that night. He was a private guy and if he could have dedicated his full time to baseball he would have been real good.” While other baseball players went to winter ball or worked on their swing during, Deion was carving out his Hall of Fame football career.
“The thing about Deion was his speed. I have never seen a faster baseball player and it was not just to first base, but his speed from first to third or home was incredible. He was so fast that when he rounded second he as actually running sideways trying to turn towards third. He was just an incredible athlete and you know what he was strong. I know he didnt’ tackle much in the NFL and he used to tell me that he didn’t paid to tackle. Say what you want about his toughness, but he was strong and always doing push-ups. I didn’t always see him in the weight room, but you could usually find him in the corner of the clubhouse doing push-ups.”
It was nice to hear the stories that Branson had to about Deion. What he remembers the most is the way he treated people. “He joked quite a bit, but was never really loud or brash. Remember now, I was just a part-time player and he treated me the same way he treated Barry (Larkin).
During the Reds affiliation days the big club would come to Indy for an exhibition game. During one of those exhibition games the Reds and Triple-A Indians took part in home run derby. The winner…”Prime Time” of course.
NEWS AND NOTES:
Saturday the Pirates recalled RHP Brad Lincoln and optioned LHP Tony Watson back to Indy. Tony is with the team and rode on the bus to Toledo. Tony’s last game with the Indians was June 5th and during his two month Major League run he appeared in 25 games striking out 23 in 26.1 innings. Wastson was a surprise call-up and he proved himself to be a big league pitcher. Watson will now pitch out of the Indians bullpen while the Tribe will likely insert Sean Gallagher into the spot held down by Lincoln.
RHP Ross Ohlendorf is expecting to pitch on Tuesday against the Mud Hens. He could still hear otherwise, but as of Sunday he was gearing up for his third rehab start with the Indians. “I feel really good and my arm and shoulder are responding each day. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt good and I will see what the Pirates want to do after my next start.” He isn’t sure whether he will be a starter or a reliever, but he does acknowledge the final two months of the season are important to him. “ It’s been a long year and it would be nice to finish with some quality appearances and have that to build on this off-season.
Hope you can tune into the Indians of the radio the next two nights. First pitch from Toledo will be at 7:00 with pre-game coverage at 6:40. Catch the Indians on 1260 am or at 1260 WNDE on your iheartradio app. I will be flying solo the next two nights because my broadcast partner Howard Kellman is away with family. He’ll return on Wednesday and hopefully by then the Indians will be 62-56 and only 3 games out of a wild card spot.