Tag Archives: Terry Francona

Finding a silver lining about Joe West being behind the dish tonight


Joe West has been doing this for quite some time.

The 64-year-old from Greenville, North Carolina made his major league debut back in 1976 and joined the National League staff full time just two years later. He’s currently finishing up his MLB-record 39th season, making him the most tenured umpire in the game today.

Tonight, for Game 6 of the 2016 World Series, he’ll toss his cup on, strap up his shinguards and squat behind home plate for what will surely be upwards of 4 hours.

It’s probably going to suck.

West has a pretty well earned reputation for being a “look at me” umpire. You know, one of the guys in blue that thinks the fans in the stands came to the game that night in hopes of being filled with wonder and astonishment at their ability to interpret and execute the rules of Major League Baseball. Like little boys in their back yard have their dads throw fastball after fastball on the outisde corner so they can practice their punch out in their youth medium light blue polos and dark gray slacks.


One would assume that, on the biggest stage possible, with one of the most storied matchups in recent memory, this reputation will be on full display.

All we can do is hope that it’ll suck just a little less for the Indians than it does for the Cubs. Here’s a few reasons why that could happen.

Josh Tomlin & Jake Arrieta career numbers with West

While neither pitcher has an enormous sample size, here’s their career numbers when Joe West is behind the dish:


Not great to the naked eye. While Tomlin has surrendered two less hits than Arrieta and has a better WHIP, he’s given up a whopping 5 home runs in just over 13 innings on the mound.

Because I’m incredibly nervous for tonight and also I hate myself, I went a little deeper and looked at the game logs from each pitcher’s two starts. Tomlin’s start in September 2010 saw him surrender 3 runs in 6 IP. The good news is that he didn’t give up his first run in that game until Mike Napoli, of all people, took him yard in the bottom of the 5th inning. His other start with West behind the plate was in 2011. 4 earned in 6.2 innings. But again, he didn’t give up a run in that one until the bottom of the 6th.

Shorter version for Arrieta:

2010 – 1 ER in 6.1 IP,  run scored on a single in the 2nd inning

2015 – 3 R 2 ER in 6.2 IP, first run scored on a ground out in the 2nd inning.

What does this mean? Probably nothing. But as we’ve seen in these playoffs, if we get a lead early, our bullpen arms can come in and turn a 9 inning game into a 4 or 5 inning game. Tomlin has been able to last that long without giving up a run with Joe West as his umpire in the past. Jake Arrieta hasn’t.

Recent history between Joe Maddon and West

Back on September 12th, Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks lost a no-hit bid when he gave up a solo dinger to Cardinals outfielderJeremy Hazelbaker to lead off the bottom of the 9th inning. When the Cubs infielders huddled up to console him/buy time for Aroldis Chapman to get loose in the pen, Joe West promptly broke it up. Maddon did not like that.

Turns out Cubs legend Kerry Wood did not like that either.

Now all this isn’t to say Tito hasn’t had a spat or two with West himself. In fact, just over a month before the video above, Joe gave Terry the heave-ho after voicing his displeasure about a check swing call.

Let’s just hope that Maddon tiff is fresh in Joe’s mind tonight and that he forgets everything negative that Tito has ever said about him and remembers how great of a story it would be if the Indians won and that he could be the guy that denied the mighty Cubs their first World Series title since 1908.

Cubs arguing balls & strikes vs cool temparment of Tomlin

Look, if Tomlin didn’t bat an eye at John Hirschbeck’s “strikezone” during his Game 3 start last Friday, there’s absolutely nothing West can do to get under his skin. The entire Indians team is pretty good about keeping their wits about them when calls don’t go their way.

The Cubs hitters aren’t nearly as bad as the Blue Jays, who incredibly have never had three strikes thrown to them in the same at bat in any of their careers, or the Red Sox of the previous two rounds. But Lester and Lackey are both pretty bad on the mound, so maybe that’s worn on the boys in blue a bit, and another frustrating game at the dish for the Cubbies might turn some of those stares into words.

That one…might be grasping at straws.

West calls less strikes than almost every other umpire

This hurts Josh Tomlin, but it hurts Jake Arrieta more.

Tomlin is known for his control, as evidenced by his league-leading 1.03 walks per 9 innings and 2.8 BB%. He gets squeezed and maybe walks 2 or 3 guys.

Arrieta had the 7th worst BB% among qualified pitchers at 9.6%, and the 10th worst BB/9 at 3.47. You’re talking about maybe walking 4 or 5 guys now if he struggles with the strike zone, opening things up for the Tribe to get those couple runs they need for the pen to take it home.

Not that he needs it, but this also favors Andrew Miller over Aroldis Chapman

For the same reasons above, just not as extreme. Miller’s 3.3 BB% was second best among relievers, while Chapman’s 8.1% is slightly below average, but a vast improvement over his career mark of 11.6%.

Cowboy Joe is a musician, musicians live rock-and-roll lifestyles, would enjoy a certain kind of party

Bottom of the 8th, Chapman on the mound, tie game, Mike Napoli walks to the dish, whispers into Joe West’s ear, works the count to 3-0, Chapman grooves a fastball, World Series.

Extend the invite, Mike.

BONUS – Country music star (blech) Hunter Hayes is singing the national anthem tonight. Joe West makes country music. I’ll polish all the apples in the land if it gets us a ring.

NOT SO BONUS – In a September 2012 review, music blog Long After Dark said, “Blue Cowboy (West’s first album) easily ranks with Ron Artest and Carl Lewis as one of the worst albums that a sports figure has cut … ever. I can say that I managed to make it through the record, although it was not easy.”


That last part may or may not have been copied and pasted directly from Wikipedia but I just wrote 1100 words about Joe West. We need to win this damn thing already.



A better April in 2016 isn’t saying much about the Indians


I was gone for one week.

It was Saturday morning, the 23rd of April. I got up bright and early, sans the bright – was on my way to Hopkins to kick off a week long vacation down in St. Pete by 4 AM. The Tribe had just taken game 1 in Detroit on the back of Josh Tomlin. I obviously didn’t know it at the time, but they’d go on to sweep the Tigers in the Motor City for the first time since people started wearing shoes. 9-7 heading into a 3 gamer against the caboose of the American League in Minnesota, followed by 3 more against the no-demeaning-introduction-needed Philadelphia Phillies? We were finally gonna have ourselves an April folks.

Three walk-off losses in four days. Five one-run losses in six days. One Cy Young candidate lost for 28-42 days.

I was gone for one week.

The dust has settled, the bodies have been cleared and we’re left with the fourth sub-.500 April in Terry Francona’s four Aprils in Cleveland. Underwhelming, considering getting off to a “hot start” was the overwhelming takeaway from coaches and players alike when they broke camp in Goodyear a month ago.

Here’s how things stood before the calendar turned to May:


Not great.

Comparatively speaking, though, not that bad.


I know it’s not great. I wish they would get off to better starts. They wish they could get off to better starts. But at this point, until they have another chance to try again next year, it is what it is. And “what it is” is that it could be worse.

I caught myself using this line in an argument a while back – “If we played .500 ball in April and close to .500 ball against the Tigers, we’d have made the playoffs every year since Tito got here.” So like we always do here at Bottlegate, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and try to back up my point with lackadaisical research and questionable logic.

It’s real simple – I wanted to apply the Indians winning percentage in April this year to each of the past three seasons to see if that change in record would have changed the outcome after game 162.


2013 was basically a wash, but we made the playoffs anyway, so ha. Three more wins and three less losses in ’14 and ’15 would surely launch us to the top of the (Wild Card) table.


That argument sounded so much better in my head. Although I stand by it if we could have managed a winning % better than what you get for putting your name on an exam in college against the Tigers.



Be thankful for meaningful baseball in Cleveland (and Terry Francona)

Your Cleveland Indians will wrap up a thoroughly disappointing 2015 campaign against the Boston Red Sox this afternoon. After last season’s this:


and this:


on top of this,


we hoped that a little bit of this:


would help make this come true:


It didn’t. And that sucked.

But for the third year in a row, Terry Francona had the Indians battling for a playoff spot until the bitter end. There’s something to be said for that.

Put away all your disdain for Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, the Dolans, Mark Shapiro and any other of your go-to scapegoats when it comes to Cleveland baseball for a second. The goal of every team in baseball at the beginning of the year is to make the playoffs. Every game you play counts towards your record, which ultimately decides whether or not you will reach your goal. Therefore, every single game you play has the potential to determine whether or not you  do reach your goal, until you’re mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

The Indians were finally mathematically eliminated from the American League Wild Card on Wednesday, September 30th this year. They had four games left to play. So four of the 162 games in their 2015 season were pointless. They had a chance to try and reach their goal of the playoffs 98% of the times they took the field.

In 2014, the Indians were eliminated from playoff contention on September 23rd, with four games left to play. 98% of their games were meaningful.

And they obviously reached their goal in 2013 when Terry Francona led them to a Wild Card berth in his first year at the helm. So in three years in Cleveland, Francona’s team has played a total of 8 meaningless games. I know missing the playoffs is disappointing. I’m as pissed about this year as anyone. But look at the three years before Tito:

  • 2012 – Eliminated on September 15, 16 games left
  • 2011 – September 19th, 11 games
  • 2010 – September 3rd, 28 games

(don’t check those)


The goal is to make the playoffs, and we failed. But believe it or not there are a couple steps in between the throne of success  and the pit of failure. And number 12 is standing on Tito’s shoulders with one hand touching the top.