December 22, 2014

Elyria
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Assenheimer: Masterson very solid … but no ace

Justin Masterson is the Indians’ No. 1 starter and a really nice guy, but he’s not an ace.

It’s already been apparent this season, as recent as Tuesday night, when the right-hander was perfect through four innings against Baltimore, then took a shutout into the seventh, only to allow six runs in the inning and a game-winning homer to Alexi Casilla.

Things happen in baseball, but aces don’t give up game-changing homers on a regular basis to guys like Casilla — a light-hitting journeyman with 12 homers over an eight-year career. Masterson does, having already surrendered a game-winning homer to Detroit’s utility man — Don Kelly.

It happens far too often with Masterson, who posted an 11-15 record and 4.93 ERA last year as Cleveland’s “ace”, and after a promising start to this season has seen the record dip to 9-6 and the ERA rise to 3.76 — still a respectable ERA, but not an ace-like one.

Though it sounds like it, this is no knock on Masterson. He has been a valuable and durable member of the rotation since he joined on a fulltime basis in 2010 — a year after coming over in a ballyhooed trade with the Red Sox for Victor Martinez.

In three-plus seasons as a starter, Masterson has already become an above-average one that at age 28 is still capable of becoming a true ace. He’s just not there yet.

Truth be told, the word ace is thrown around too often. Only a select few, guys like
Detroit’s Justin Verlander, Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee, New York’s CC Sabathia and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw, are worthy of that title.

Has Masterson pitched like an ace from time to time this season and the last? Sure, but so do a lot of pitchers that aren’t actually aces. I mean, Scott Kazmir pitched like one the other night — seven shutout innings on one hit with four strikeouts — but it’s been a long time since you could call the left-hander an ace.

To be a true ace, at least in my opinion, you have to go out and put up those numbers way more often than not, so your poor performances — or un-ace-like ones — are rare and come as a surprise. Masterson has yet to do that.

Ballparks, frankly

What are my Top 5 favorite ballparks — at least the ones that I have visited? It’s funny you should ask. I’ve been to 24 big league parks, some that don’t exist anymore.
Not trying to boast, just providing some parameters to establish a little credibility.

The current ones I haven’t been to? In the American League, new Yankee Stadium (been to the old one), Los Angeles’ Angel Stadium, Minnesota’s Target Field (Been to the Metrodome) and Tampa’s Tropicana Field. And in the NL, Atlanta’s Turner Field, Washington’s Nationals Park, Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, New York’s Citi Field (Been to Shea Stadium), St. Louis’ Busch Stadium, Arizona’s Chase Field, Colorado’s Coors Field, San Diego’s Petco Park, San Francisco’s AT&T Park (Been across the street from it at a bar watching Ohio State beat Wisconsin 33-29 in a thriller, Oct. 29, 2011) and Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium (that one hurts).

First off, aesthetic value is nice, but I’m a sucker for the old parks, the buildings with storied traditions, which almost always go hand in hand with winning ones. No venue fits that bill more than old Yankee Stadium.

I was fortunate enough to visit the “House that Ruth Built” on a number of occasions before it was replaced by the modern-day version. Haven’t been to that one yet, but I can already tell you it’s not going to stack up.

Bottom line here, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle played there, to name a very few of the Hall of Famers that laced them up in the Bronx.

No. 2 is Fenway Park. Like I said, I’m a sucker for the old parks, and I hope this one never gets torn down. I’ve heard a number of people call this palatial estate a dump.
Well, yes, but this is one of the most beautiful dumps in existence — and the criticism most often comes from people that have never actually been there. The Green Monster, “Sweet Caroline,” “Dirty Water,” and the surrounding environment make this one of the greatest baseball experiences ever.

After recognizing my style early it’s probably shocked you that it’s taken this long to get to Wrigley Field. Well, here it is at No. 3. Love pretty much everything about this park. Not sure there’s a better spot to take in a day game. Check that, there isn’t. If the Cubs weren’t so bad on a regular basis, it might deserve even more recognition than it already gets.

No. 4 is going to surprise you. Safeco Field: OK, I know it’s a dome, but in rain-filled Seattle, it has to be — and it’s retractable. This place is just really cool. And the weather is part of the reason I like it. What can I say, I’m kind of an overcast and rainy guy.

No. 5 is Rogers Centre: I know, another dome, but another really cool one. The view from the press box is one of the best in my opinion. There is a hotel in the upper deck atop the outfield. That makes it for me.

Others receiving votes: Progressive Field (Cleveland), Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City), PNC Park (Pittsburgh) and Comerica Park (Detroit).

Fan count

Congratulations, Indians fans, you are no longer last in attendance. Don’t pat yourself on the back just yet, though. Through Friday, Cleveland ranked 27th in attendance, drawing an average of 18,178 fans to Progressive Field over 38 dates.

That’s not real good for a team trying to convince people this is a “Tribe Town.”
The team is in contention, the weather has improved, the kids are out of school and there’s nothing else going on in Cleveland right now sports-wise (outside of the Gladiators).

Tribe fans are running out of excuses.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.
Fan him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.