The destinations change, but the results stay the same. July 26th seems like a decade ago. That was the day the Indians beat Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers to move within three and a half games of first place. Since then, the Indians have turned into the Bad News Bears. They can’t hit. They can’t pitch. The can’t field. The mental mistakes come way too often. The talent deficiencies which we all didn’t want to believe existed back in April and May, are so unbelievably obvious that I am mad at myself for being so fooled.
This team had so many “ifs” when the season started and all of them had to come together for them to win the AL Central. Let us take a look back at some of them in bullet point format:
- If Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez can pitch like front of the rotation starters they need to be. Did that happen? Nope.
- If Travis Hafner can regain his 2004-2007 form and stay healthy. Did that happen? Nope
- If Grady Sizemore can come back from multiple surgeries and be his old self again. Did that happen? Nope. He didn’t even play in a game!
- If Carlos Santana can take that next step towards stardom. Did that happen? Nope.
- If they can get anything out of the left field platoon of Johnny Damon and Shelley Duncan. Did that happen? Nope.
- If Casey Kotchman can hit .300 at first base like he did last year. Did that happen? Nope.
- If the back end of the rotation guys Derek Lowe, Josh Tomlin, and Jeanmar Gomez can eat innings and provide a solid bridge to the pen. Did that happen? Nope
- If they can get anything from Jack Hannahan at third, and if that didn’t work, they could have Lonnie Chisenhall be the guy. Did that happen? Nope.
- If the all-left-handed lineup could become a good idea and work. Did that happen? Nope.
All of those things needed to occur, in addition to solid seasons from their core players, Shin-Soo Choo, Santana, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Brantley, Chris Perez, and Vinnie Pestano.
When you see that all out there in front of you, it makes you wonder how you could have been so optimistic.
I admit it, I drank plenty of the Kool Aid. But after watching yet another weekend series in which the Indians were thoroughly dominated by small market brethren Oakland, it just gives you more fuel to the fire for those calling for sweeping front office changes.
We all know that A’s GM Billy Beane has the reputation of being the best at his craft in turning a bottom five payroll into a contender. The guy finds diamonds in the rough and surrounds them with great young pitching. That is the thing the Moneyball movie glossed right over. While Beane put together a group of misfits in the field, he also had a three-headed monster of young, homegrown, stud pitchers leading his rotation in Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito (the book of course mentioned them). The three combined to make 99 starts, going a combined 57-21.
This season, the A’s were supposed to be one of, if not the worst team in baseball in 2012. Instead, thanks to great young starting pitching, the A’s are 65-55 and just a half game back of one of the two AL wild card spots. Sunday’s starter, Jarrod Parker, was a 2007 first round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who was acquired in an offseason deal along with their young all-star reliever Ryan Cook, for starter Trevor Cahill and lefty reliever Craig Breslow. Parker completely shut down the Tribe for eight innings, allowing just six hits. Cook closed down the 7-0 A’s win.
Parker’s rookie season has been a success, with a 3.48 ERA.
Friday night the A’s sent out another one of their kid arms, lefty Tommy Milone (4.04 ERA), added in the Gio Gonzalez deal in the offseason. Fellow rookies Dan Straily and AJ Griffin (seven starts, 2.42 ERA, 0.96 WHIP) have both come up with fanfare attached and have looked good in their small sample sizes. Veterans Brandon McCarthy (2.68 ERA) and Bartolo Colon (3.43 ERA, who the Indians passed on two winters ago only to see him have a career renaissance in New York and Oakland) have been solid as well.
This isn’t even mentioning their former young ace Brett Anderson who is coming back from Tommy John surgery sometime this month.
Milone (four runs in five innings – all on Shelley Duncan’s grand slam), Colon (eight innings, one run), and Parker (eight innings, no runs) made the Indians look silly this weekend in a sweep that looked a lot harder than it actually was judging by the scores. The Tribe starters on the other hand once again left a lot to be desired.
Zach McAllister was the best of the three, yet he was staked to a 4-0 lead and gave all four back within two innings. He went six, allowing those four runs, striking out six and walking just one. The thing is, as Manny Acta put it Friday night, you can’t ask a kid who was not expected to be at or even near the top of your rotation and started the season in AAA to be pitch like an ace every single time out.
Corey Kluber didn’t respond well to an Asdrubal Cabrera throwing error in the third a night later. Instead of bearing down, Kluber went into panic mode, allowing a walk, a double steal, a two-RBI double to Josh Reddick, and a two-run homer to Yoenis Cespedes. With the way the offense has been swinging the bats in close games, the game was all over at that point for all intents and purposes. The A’s took that game 8-5, but the Tribe scored four runs in the ninth inning when the game was already in the bag. How Jhonny Peralta/Casey Blake of them to get their hits when they were down by seven runs in the ninth.
Then there is the resident “stopper” Masterson who got his chance to try and salvage a win in this series yesterday. Instead, he pitched into the sixth before getting lifted with his team trailing 7-0. The A’s, whose offense is Tribe-esque, battered him around for nine hits and those seven runs.
I will say this until I am blue in the face. If you can’t pitch, you aren’t going to win. Period. Especially when your offense is asleep at the wheel.
The Indians have now lost five in a row, seven of nine, and 18 of 22. They are now 10-26 since the all-star break, and with the Royals sweep of the White Sox, the Tribe has fallen into fourth place in the AL Central. Next stop is the basement.
Look on the bright side folks, with the way they are playing, a top eight draft pick is all but assured!
Really at this point, what positives can I possibly talk about? This is depressing. Worst of all, there are six weeks left in the season and we are watching an epic fold job right before our very eyes.