HBT Weekend Wrapup

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I took Friday off, which has me completely discombobulated, baseball wise. I’m going on vacation next week and will be unplugging for the entire trip. If I can expect my discombobulation to be seven times what I’m feeling right now, I’m pretty sure my chances of surviving with my sanity intact are zero. So welcome to the last productive week of HardballTalk!

As for the weekend:

  • Jonathan Broxton lost his closer’s job because he has lost his confidence. This is the saddest thing I’ve witnessed since that evil doctor stole Fonzie’s cool in that late-run “Happy Days” episode. Of course by that point they had introduced Roger and Eugene, made the Fonz a teacher and Jenny Piccolo was a real character instead of someone Joanie just talked about, so the cool was long gone to begin with. Much like the Dodgers’ playoff chances.
  • Andy Pettitte suffered a setback during a simulated game. No one is sure if the setback itself is real, however. Simulated games are like the “Inception” of the baseball world in that way.
  • The Rangers’ new owners lower beer prices, among other fan-friendly things. Doing such a thing is such a no-brainer in terms of the creation of fan goodwill that it’s amazing more teams don’t do stuff like this. I mean really, if anyone is qualified to make no-brainer moves, it’s baseball owners.
  • When does Jose Canseco’s big league pension kick in? Because, really, it’s getting sad to see him go from job to job like this. Of course, Canseco serving as bench coach is fairly useful in that it conclusively proves what I’ve long suspected: bench coaches don’t actually do anything.
  • Chipper Jones had successful surgery. I am not making this up: part of the ligament graft came from a cadaver. Which means that the Mets’ worst fears will be coming true next season: Zombie Chipper.
  • K-Rod apologizes. I haven’t read the apology yet, but I assume it has something to do with his pummeling fists being taken out of context.
  • It’s cute that Joe Torre thinks he’s still in New York and thus the whole world is waiting to hear what his career plans are.
  • Carlos Zambrano wins his first start since his return from crazyland. This was really the only game I saw over the weekend. My daughter watched part of it with me. After listening to some of the game she said “what are ‘his issues?'”
  • A-Rod hits three bombs against the Royals. If I ran a New York tabloid I’d be real tempted to have one of my columnists write a thing about how Rodriguez is too lazy to run and thus insists on slow jogs.
  • Rob Dibble kinda sorta not really apologizes for making fun of some women fans he assumed to be talking about shopping while in the stands at a Nats game. He did not apologize, however, for failing to grasp the irony of his calling people out for talking bullsh– during a baseball game.

And with that, let us proceed with our week, shall we?

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.