I realized something during the 14-3 shellacking laid on the Indians Monday night. I’ve written about this team since the beginning of the 2008 season—not quite five full seasons. This is the third losing streak of at least ten games that I’ve covered.
This seems like a lot, right? I mean, three losing streaks of at least 10 games in less than five seasons? I don’t know. Seems like a lot to me, anyway.
And when I tweeted that fact, someone asked me if this most recent one didn’t feel a bit different. A bit rougher. A bit more disheartening. He suggested that it might be because this losing streak did not involve many close games—that we were getting clobbered most nights, rather than losing by the slimmest of margins.
On the one hand, he was quite obviously right. The team has been destroyed during the losing streak in historic fashion, as laid out nicely by Jordan Bastian. But that isn’t why this streak has been particularly hard to endure. At least not for me.
No. This streak is different for me because of the context. In 2008 and 2009, the team was supposed to be bad—it had been designed that way, starting with the Sabathia trade and culminating with the Cliff and Vic trades a year later. But even more than that, the badness seemed to signify a plan toward a future that was…well…less bad. We were forced to endure those years because we had restocked our farm system with talent that had to mature. We watched helplessly as players like Mark Grudzielanek and Russell Branyan and Tomo Okha and Niuman Romero and Wyatt Toregas slowly sucked the life out of us. But at least there was a supposed point the misery. At least it felt purposeful.
All we have now is the detritus of a failed plan. A window that slid shut without warning, while we were hanging our heads over the sill, idly thinking playoff thoughts.
And this is what’s got me so down these days. The Indians have started to DFA the older players, signaling a changing of the guard. But there’s no Santana to call up, as there was in 2010. We have no Brantley waiting in the wings, no Pomeranz to dream on. There will be no #FreeRussCanzler campaigns. Or if there are, we really need to get a life.
The upper levels of the farm system are as barren as they’ve been in years. We’re staring down the barrel of losing our best position player to free agency without any viable replacement. Our starting rotation has an ERA over 5.00, with no projectable arms anywhere above the Carolina league to help them out. Our best pitcher was obtained in a straight-up trade for two months of Austin Kearns, and he allowed ten runs in one inning on Monday night. Our best prospect is 17 years old, and even by the most optimistic assessments, he’s a half decade from reaching the Majors. God only knows whether that will coincide with a contention window. We just can’t think that far ahead.
I hate to sound so hopeless. As much as I think this season is an emblematic failure for the front office, I’m also hopeful that next season doesn’t have to be such. Things can turn on a dime, as we’ve seen in the last few weeks. It wasn’t so long ago that I thought this team had a strong core of players, and hey, I can guarantee I’ll think it again before too much longer. They’re called hallucinegenics, and I highly recommend them.
But I think it’s still pretty telling where we find ourselves in August of 2012, halfway into the contention cycle initiated by the Ubaldo trade last July: no team in the American League has been outscored by a bigger margin than the Cleveland Indians. Another way to write this would be to say the Indians are currently the worst team in the League. When they were primed to contend.
I’ve written about some pretty crummy baseball in Cleveland over the last five years. That’s nothing new. But for the first time, I’m starting to feel defeated by it—not because of what I see in front of me, but because of what I don’t.