I’m covering this one while TD is out of town, which means we’re doing this live-blog style. But let’s be honest: you don’t want a play-by-play account of this team right now any more than I feel like writing one for you. So instead we’re doing a stream-of-consciousness recap. I’ll occasionally touch on the game, but mostly, I’ll be giving you random asides regarding the team, their situation, and anything else I feel like discussing. (Let’s pretend this is a new thing and not the same thing I always do. OK?)
8:03 PM – So it’s come to this: I’m live-blogging a game who’s most significant footnote will likely involve a man named “Vinnie Rottino”—a game being watched by literally tens of households across the Northeast Ohio corridor. That’s right Tribe fans: we’re live blogging a midweek Royals-Indians game with absolutely nothing on line.
Times like these, I’m left wondering about the decisions I’ve made that have led me to this unfortunate state of affairs.
You win, world. You win.
8:26 PM – After the Tribe goes down quietly in the first, the Royals take the early lead on Zach McAllister with a walk, a hit, a stolen base, and a Santana throwing error. Just like that, it’s 2-0 Royals.
Let me imagine the subsequent dugout conversation between Acta and his Merry Men:
“Let’s treat this as a teachable moment. What did you guys do wrong that inning, do you think?”
“All of the things. We did all of the things wrong.”
Like Derek Lowe said before the game, these aren’t just “bad breaks” or “bad luck”. This is a bad baseball team. (OK, he didn’t say that exactly. But that was his point.)
And that leads me to the point that I’ve been trying to make since the deadline came and went. I had no major problems with the team not doing anything at the trading deadline, mostly because I find this team to be, well, pretty bad. For the record, the Indians entered tonight’s game with the second worst run differential in the American League. One piece wouldn’t have helped. Two wouldn’t have either, unless we’re talking about a lockdown ace pitcher AND someone like Miguel Cabrera. Those pieces weren’t available, and even if they were they wouldn’t have been available in what I call the Twitter special: “You think we could Miggy and Prince for LaPorta, Tomlin, Huff and Phelps? We should do that!! Stupid Dolans.”
No. My problem is that the team is no good. During the rebuild years I was largely ok with that: you give away years and players to retool or rebuild or reload or whatever. But during the so-called “contention window” that the front office has been dangling in front of us since July of 2008? Well, it stinks to be just as bad as ever. Sure, this team has some exciting players, but it’s not particularly close to resembling even an average team. Our cleanup hitter is Michael Brantley. Our best pitcher’s ERA is worse than the league average. Our first baseman is Casey Kotchman. And on it goes.
My question, I suppose, is whether there is any endgame here? Of course the problem is structurally endemic to the MLB system, but having established that fact, what do we do with it? Cry? Start twitter wars? Die on the vine? I honestly don’t know the answer to these questions, but I know that I’m asking them. I also imagine some of you prophets out there will be enlightening me in the comments.
By the way, it’s now 8:49 PM, and the Royals are winning 4-0. Still doing all of the things wrong.
9:04 PM – The second inning just ended (still 4-0 Royals), which means we’re on pace for a game that will last just shy of four and half hours. And here I sit, without my self-immolation kit.
So back to the endgame issue I was discussing before. I don’t advocate firing people—it’s just not something I’m comfortable doing. On top of the general principle of the thing, I tend to think that Chris Antonetti and Mark Shapiro have fairly difficult jobs, partly because of the inherent structural problems with MLB discussed above and partly because of their ownership group and partly because they’re carrying the weight of an angry fanbase with them everywhere they go that is just never going to give them an inch of slack or forgive them for trading away its heroes. I do not envy these guys in the front office one bit.
On the other hand, there is the simple fact that this team is failing to meet the expectations that Antonetti and Shapiro themselves placed on it during the Spring: namely, to compete for a division championship. Derek Lowe and Ubaldo Jimenez and Kevin Slowey and Grady Sizemore and Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon. These were the final pieces of their contention push—the paraph on their masterpiece. Those players cost us nearly $20 million this season—that’s real money that should be buying real players. Instead, this group of players has contributed less than a half a win over replacement so far this year. Are there no consequences for this?
I just don’t know. That’s not me being coy. I understand that it’s impossible not to make mistakes; these are difficult decisions, etc. The Yankees probably make just as many mistakes if not more, we just never see them because they cut the player, pay his salary, and move on. My point is not that these guys suck at their jobs. At least that’s not the point I was hoping to make.
Rather, what I keep coming back to is whether the Antonetti-Shapiro-Dolan triumvirate hasn’t poisoned the well in this town beyond any hope of repair. Like I wrote before, I don’t see this group being forgiven, either for what they’ve done or for what they represent. Even if they improbably win the World Series next season on the backs of Santana and Brantley and Kipnis and Masterson and Carrasco and Choo and Jimenez, the day after the parade they’ll still be castigated for doing it on the cheap. It’ll be called a fluke. Because it will be. After all, that’s what we call it when an underdog wins.
Now I’m just rambling. But I’m not done thinking about this endgame thing. It seems important.
9:26 PM – Holy moly. The Indians have scored on a Carlos Santana home run that I missed because I was rambling. It’s now 4-1, heading to the top of the fifth inning. They’re no longer doing all of the things wrong. So there’s that…
9:40 PM – 5-1 Royals now, end of the fifth. No, I don’t want to talk about it.
But since you asked and since we’re on the topic of endgames, let’s entertain briefly an idea that I heard on the radio this afternoon. There was some talk (believe it or not!) that Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti should be fired after this season. The idea was that such a move could solve this team’s on-field malaise or, failing that, it would at least make us all feel better, albeit in a punitive, death penalty sort of way.
I’ve written in the past that I think Antonetti and Shapiro are smart guys who are assets to this team. I still think that, for whatever it’s worth. It’s easy to point out their misses, but I can’t think of many other front offices that did more under similar financial constraints over the last 10 to 15 years. I bring this up all the time, but you do realize that Kansas City and Pittsburgh laugh at our whiny ways, right? Five years ago we won more games than any team in baseball. Those two teams have had one winning season between them in their last 36 combined seasons. Those fans see us as the rich whiny kid who doesn’t like the rims on his new BMW.
In other words, it’s completely possible that we fire our front office and replace it with people who are worse. Sure, the move would be symbolic and cathartic and Lerner-esque and maybe it would even sell some tickets. But I’d still wager the team is likely better with those guys than without them.
And yes, I say that after outlining the $20 million they blew this season above. This is a live-blog: referential integrity is not required. Take it up with Magritte.
10:05 PM – McAllister is done. Pestano on in relief.
McAllister’s line is sort of what we would’ve expected from him before he got our hopes up earlier this year: 6 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 3K, 2 BB. The definition of mediocre.
But we got him for two months of Austin Kearns. So we’ll take it.
10:12 PM – I enjoyed this banter, so it’s making the recap:
Matt Underwood: “Wow, if it’s this hot in Kansas City, how hot must it be in Arlington for that Rangers’ game?”
Rick Manning: [matter-of-factly and without pause] “Probably 108.”
Anyway, it’s 5-1 Royals, heading to the eighth inning.
10:20 PM – It’s time to admit something pretty damning: I don’t think I understand the “What If?” ad campaign. It’s not that I don’t like it (though it can sometimes be pretty cheesy). I just don’t think I understand what the marketing people are driving at and how it’s supposed to make me want to buy single-game tickets (if, in fact, that’s the goal).
It feels good to get that off my chest.
10:27 PM – The Indians sort of threatened to make a game of it there in the top of the eighth, but to be completely honest, they didn’t look all that into it. Asdrubal drove in a run and we had second and third with only one out, but Kipnis and Brantley couldn’t get the job done.
Royals lead to 5-2. Our Hirsute Hero will be on for the ninth.
10:32 PM – Perez sends them down in order. After all that, we have a chance to get out of this thing in less than two and a half hours, which is something.
10:41 PM – In an ending that can only be called synecdochic, Johnny Damon grounds out to the catcher to end the game. That’s five straight losses for the Indians and 10 of their last 13. Turn out the lights…