Major League Baseball is, at its core, comprised of two groups of teams. Both want to win as winning is the root of call competition and baseball is, by and large, rife with highly competitive individuals. One group yearns to do so, so badly, that that they are willing to do whatever it takes in order to better their chances at reaching the pinnacle of their goal-based mountain. The other group, however, hopes for the best and if winning happens, well hey, that’s pretty cool.
Both groups, as often happens within this glorious vortex known the MLB regular season, were firmly represented on Tuesday evening as the Indians played their second of three games against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The halos trotted out Zack Greinke, a Cy Young award winner with an ERA under 3.50 who they managed to acquire before the recently passed MLB trade deadline. The Indians countered with Ubaldo Jiménez, a one-time All-Star whom they acquired before last season’s trade deadline.
Greinke, on this night, retired 10 of his first 11 batters. Jiménez allowed four runs, five hits, a walk and a hit batter in the first inning alone. As the scoreboard glowed Angels 9, Indians 6, Greinke would take his record to 10-4. Jiménez, not to be outdone, would record his American League-leading 12th loss, tossing yet another wild pitch in the process, while offering up this gem:
“I’m a work in progress.”
It wasn’t all that long ago that the should-be ace turned in one of his better outings as a member of the Indians, fanning 10 members of the Boston Red Sox in what would be a rare win for the Wahoos. The unfortunate part is that this Indians team, as presently constructed, relies on outings like this, outings which are clearly the outlier for a pitcher who is 2-7 in his last 10 starts. The 2012 Indians are a team which, as we were led to believe by their selective off-season acquisitions, were going to rely on solid pitching and impenetrable defense. But on Tuesday evening, as the fourth run of the inning would cross the plate on a ball hit sharply off of the glove of shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, subsequently sent trickling into shallow left field, it was clear that neither of these ideals would be executed upon.
Jiménez would go on to say that the Angels “had a good approach.” Said approach was clearly smacking middle-of-the-plate fastballs to all parts of the field, swinging very early in the count. Once the Tribe’s starter opted to mix things up a bit, throwing off-speed pitches early, the ever-talented Angels lineup countered with quality at-bats. After cruising through the second and third innings, a slate which allowed the Indians to cut the lead from four runs to two, Erick Aybar quickly deposited a fastball over the right-center field fence. Catcher Chris Ianetta patiently earned a base on balls. Mike Trout, the soon-to-be unanimous AL Rookie of the Year, waited on an outside curve ball and sent it into left center field. Albert Pujols, the team’s — and baseball’s — big free agent addition, would cap things off by placing an off-speed pitch over the left fence, his second home run in the series, scoring his two teammates and ultimately putting the game well out of reach for the reeling Indians lineup, blind-siding the starting pitcher.
“I don’t even know [what happened],” said Jimenez. “Sometimes I have a good games, sometimes I have a bad game — definitely have been inconsistent. It’s been a really tough year, but I have to keep going, keep working.”
This entire game coming on the heels of manager Manny Acta’s comments regarding his team needing three additional bats as well as a starting pitcher in order to compete. This coming hours after the team opted to place a starting pitcher on the disabled list to clear space for a player who will soon make his season debut after aging three years in roughly three months. This coming during a period of alleged contention. Compare this all to a team like the Angels who knew what they needed, and got it done. As it just so happens, the Angels are also proud owners of the most MLB-ready rookie to take the stage in the history of the game. Sure, they have a payroll upwards of $155 million, but if the Indians are ever going to win — a championship, not just a division title — they will have to do so by contending against teams in the other group. The Wahoos have managed to have the Angels’ number at times through the 2012 season, but as the sample size increases, the quality of roster starts to win out. In the MLB land of East Eggs and West Eggs, the Cleveland Indians are hard-boiled.
This Cleveland Indians roster, at least under the current ownership group, will never have a payroll that even sniffs that of the one currently employed by the Angels. Then again, when a player who was supposed to be an ace, one who was to be the “make or break” player of a crucial season, says he’s a “work in progress,” perhaps there are more issues to evaluate than off-season free agent spending. Moneyball was a fun movie. It won awards. It had the chubby Jonah Hill. It was about baseball. But the movie was ultimately about a winning streak, not a championship. But surely, had they won the entire thing, well, that would have been pretty cool.
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)