The Indians lost last night, extending their season long losing streak to seven games. Just one week ago, the Tribe had taken two out of three against these same Tigers in a last ditch effort to hang with the White Sox and Tigers. They sat at 50-49 after beating Justin Verlander, and hopes were relatively high again. Now, with the streak and the symbolic subtractions of veterans Lowe and Damon, all doubt has been removed and this team is not playing beyond Game 162.
Right now, there’s a lot of collective anger to go around, and fans are falling into both educated and not-so-educated trains of thought. The Dolans are cheap. Antonetti blew what little money he had this offseason. The MLB economic structure itself is criminal. The players are’t giving it their all. Acta has lost the team. Meanwhile, us fans are dead last when stacked up against 29 other teams’ fans. It certainly seems that the Indians are caught in contention limbo. The real question is what can they and we as fans do about it now?
I think we all understand this team needs more to contend. As their starting rotation has displayed so eloquently in the last two weeks, the Tribe lacks an ace as well as a true number two starter. Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez could have been the two most important players on this roster heading into the season. And, sifting through the rubble that is now the 2012 campaign, they would be the first two players’ names I would bring up when we’re talking about most disappointing seasons and most crippling blows to the team. Hitting is down everywhere across the bigs, and make no mistake, any lineup that is trotting out Casey Kotchman, Johnny Damon (formerly), and Jack Hannahan daily 1 has issues. But, if Masterson and Jimenez had performed up to the level of expectations in the first two months when Gomez and Lowe were both going so well and carrying the starting staff, the Indians would’ve had a ten-game lead in the Central and this seven-game slide would’ve only dropped them out of first place instead of knocking them out of contention period.
You’ve heard me say this before, but the all-in move of acquiring Jimenez is now down to 2013 to deliver for giving up our top prospect in Drew Pomeranz. What was the point without subsequent boosting moves? With a farm system as depleted at the high levels as ours is right now, it just wasn’t worth it to pull that off. I will say that the Shapiro-Antonetti duo has been able to pull off some spectacular low-profile deals 2 But, when push comes to shove, the talent isn’t coming up through the ranks, they made poor signings 3 , their high-profile deals failed to deliver enough and they’re not spending to fill gaping holes. Some will blame Acta, but I’m looking squarely at the front office.
This is now the time of year to do exactly what they’ve been doing and cut the veterans loose and play the young guns. The problem being? All of the young players worth a dime are already on the current roster and playing huge roles. Kluber, Rottino, Seddon, and Carrera are NOT prospects, and the fact that the Tribe has no one younger and more MLB-ready to step in is just pathetic. Last year, at least we were able to go to the minor leagues and bring up Kipnis and Chisenhall. This year, there’s no big name walking through that door.
This is a pretty gloom and doom article overall, because that’s where many of us are at with our Tribe fandom right now. However, there are still some glimmers of hope. There’s the makings of a young core still here. Kipnis, Cabrera, Brantley, Chisenhall, Santana, Masterson, and Pestano are all pieces of a prospective contending team. Hopefully, some of the likes of Paulino, Lindor, Aguilar, Rodriguez, Wolters, and Naquin will be here before long 4 . Choo and Perez are the question marks. Can we hold onto them? Should we hold onto them or attempt to replenish some of our minor league reserves with near-major league ready players? I don’t know the right answer. What I do know is that the bullpen is the strength of this team and it’s the easiest thing to construct. I also know that Scott Boras will never let Choo sign back here in Cleveland without breaking the bank.
Above all though, between the ownership whining about the financial handcuffs they are under and the fans whining about the product on the field and the trading away of their heroes, it’s not a good situation. I maintain that ownership is going to have to take the first leap of faith and financial commitment. 5 As Indians fans, I believe we are rightly skeptical of an organization who has one end-to-end bright spot season since 2001. It’s not right, it’s not fair, but I do think it’s the case that the Dolans will have to in fact build it for us to come. People are upset about the economic imbalance in the game, the inability for the team to keep its own stars, and the inability of the scouting department to effectively draft and replace those guys that we are losing to free agency 6 Granted, the Indians have been on the whole successful when stacked up against the likes of Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City, but that doesn’t mean we can’t demand better and vote with our wallet. Largely, I think that’s what fans are doing right now.
It’s never going to be the 90′s again for the Indians. Not until some sort of salary cap is established. 455 is only a number in right field now. But, I refuse to believe this isn’t a situation where ownership can spend when the time is right and the window is truly open. I feel we have the capacity to support the team in appropriate numbers for a small market team.((Read: not dead last, maybe 15th-20th?)) This is not a bad baseball town, but it is one that’s been bumped and bruised with animosity flowing in both directions.
Is this is an irrevocably broken baseball organization and fan base? Do the Indians have the ammo to compete in 2013 or should they rebuild? Do we need a new direction? Like the losses, the questions are piling up as we head into the heart of August.
(Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)
- Not to mention a slumping-until-recently Carlos Santana and an over-the-hill Hafner [back]
- After all, we have those to thank for most of our core in Perez, Santana, Choo, and Cabrera. [back]
- Grady Sizemore [back]
- 2014 for some of them given the lack of depth in the system? [back]
- I’ll have more about Cleveland owners tomorrow. [back]
- Or, more accurately, losing to trades 2 or 14 months before we would lose them to free agency. [back]