July 24, 2014

Mercifully, Its Over…..But The A’s Are Still Playing!


Game 162. Regarding our beloved Cleveland Indians, it seems like this last two months has taken two full years, hasn’t it? I can’t remember a season that I wanted to end more than this one. Its crazy to think that I feel that way, considering as of July 26th, the Indians were right there in the race for the AL Central crown.

On the same day the Indians were finishing out the string and getting housed by the White Sox by a touchdown and a safety, the Oakland A’s were finishing off a historic season where they roared back from a five game deficit in just over a week ago, to win the American League West with 94 wins. At one point this season, both the A’s and the Indians were 44-42.

Last night’s Tribe loss? Their 94th.

You know how the A’s made their run? With good young starting pitching and a solid back end of the pen. While their offense isn’t exactly the 1995 Indians, they came through with timely hits while living off of their shrewd offseason moves (signing of Yoenis Cespedes, trading for Josh Reddick, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, and Ryan Cook) and thew development of their kid pitching (Parker, Milone, A.J. Griffin, Cook, Sean Doolittle).

Let me bottom line this for you – The Oakland A’s just won a division with the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels in it, while the Indians lost 94 games in arguably the worst division in all of pro sports. In other words, The A’s made Chris Antonetti look worse by the day.

Billy Beane general managed circles around him. While Antonetti was trading his two best pitching prospects for a guy who lost 17 games and was one of the worst starting pitchers in the American League, Beane was adding Parker (23 year old stud with and former 1st round pick), Milone (25 year old stud with an ERA of 3.74), Reddick (25 year old corner outfielder who hit 32 homers and drove in 84 in his first year as a regular), and Cook (The A’s version of Vinnie Pestano who finished the season with a 2.09 ERA and 0.92 WHIP).

The risks Beane took in trading off Gio Gonzalez (for Milone, Brad Peacock, a 24 year old pitcher who was rated the #42 best prospect by Baseball America, and backup catcher Derek Norris) and Trevor Cahill (for Cook, Parker, and Collin Cowgill, a power hitting outfield prospect) paid off.  The risk that Antonetti took – trading for Ubaldo Jimenez – now defines him, and not in a good way.

The 9-0 loss to the White Sox, one in which journeyman first baseman Dan Johnson hit three homers, was a microcosm of the last two months that ruined the Indians season. Bad pitching (David Huff lasted just four and two-thirds), bad defense (two errors were directly responsible for four runs), and no offense (shutout on five hits).

Ah, but you had the last hurrah for Travis Hafner, who received a standing ovation from the few thousand people still in attendance in the ninth. Pronk tipped his cap to the crowd before popping out to third. His Indians career ended with a whimper. Hafner played in just 66 games in 2012 and averaged just 85 games played in each of the last five seasons. In his first five in Cleveland, he averaged 129.

“It was a special moment to have the fans do that,” Hafner said. “It was a great moment. It’s something I’ll remember forever. I kind of wanted to acknowledge it. They’ve been great to me. This city has been great to me. I kind of wanted to thank them for everything.”

No matter how little money Hafner would take to come back to Cleveland, its time to move on from him. Antonetti can’t possibly make the same mistake with Travis that he did with Grady Sizemore next season. Cut the cord. Having a DH who can’t move or play anywhere in the field is not baseball in 2012. You need that spot to be flexible so you can rest certain regulars while keeping their bat in the lineup. Hafner does nothing but hamstring you. Not to mention……He’s just not that good.

I’m going all over the place, I know. But what more can I say about a game where the Indians lost by a touchdown and a safety? Hey, there’s a segue. It was an easy decision to make the switch from the Tribe debacle to “Cleveland ’95″ on NFL Network, which while depressing, I enjoyed. I sincerely hope that the current Browns players, coaching staff, and new owner Jimmy Haslam were watching. In addition, I hope Tribe owner Larry Dolan was viewing. If anyone who saw this show and didn’t get the deep, deep love of the city for this team, then you don’t have a pulse.

The Dolan family ownership can only wish that their fanbase had half of passion.

The last days at Progressive Field in 2012 had a ghost town feel. Fans are angry. They want answers and a vision going forward, yet with Antonetti returning in 2013 to captain the ship, apathy has set in. Sure, hiring Terry Francona as the next manager would be quite a coup, but guess what, Francona can’t pitch or hit. Antonetti’s cupboard is completely bare and if we learned anything from the A’s 2012 success, its that you can win with a small payroll if you have good, young, inexpensive starting pitching. No matter what Francona can do in the clubhouse should he get the job, he can’t take away from the fact that as of today, the rotation he’d be going to war with next season would be amongst the worst in the majors.

A lot can change during the winter. The Indians have trade chips should they choose to use them. Will Antonetti stay with the core group and add to them, or will he gut the team and start building up the completely depleted top levels of the minors? Whatever happens, this is probably the most important offseason we’ve seen in Cleveland in a decade.

On a personal note, I’d like to thank all of the readers and commenters who came along for the ride with me during this debacle of a season. Writing about this team on a daily basis is a labor of love. Sometimes these things write themselves while other times it is pretty brutal to cover. But as I’ve told you all, I bleed Wahoo Red, White, and Blue, so I will continue to soldier on.

Also a special thanks to Jon and Kirk for filling in for me when my real job wouldn’t allow me to be involved. Jon’s “live blogging” of Tribe games is always prime stuff and Kirk just flat out gets it.

I’ll have more next week taking a look back at the 2012 season and of course once the Indians make their managerial decision. Sandy Alomar inteviews for the job today, with Fancona coming to Cleveland tomorrow for his turn. It seems pretty simple to me; if Francona wants the job and the Dolan’s can meet his price, it is his. If not, Sandy takes over.

So until next time…. I’m out like Grady Sizemore

  • boomhauertjs

    No way will the Dolans pay Francona, especially when they still owe Acta a year of salary. They’re just bringing him in for an interview to say “We tried to hire Francona, but he was too expensive for us.” Just like they did with “trying” to sign Carlos Beltran.

  • mgbode

    TD – “He’s just not that good.”

    i’m frustrated he cannot stay healthy, he made too much money. but, when he was out there, he was our 2nd best hitter. it may not be saying a bunch, but it’s what we got.

  • mgbode

    “I bleed Wahoo Red, White, and Blue”

    and we definitely appreciate the continual efforts. especially down this downright depressing stretch.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    Yeoman’s work, sir. Much appreciated.

  • Garry_Owen

    “No matter how little money Hafner would take to come back to Cleveland, its time to move on from him. Antonetti can’t possibly make the same mistake with Travis that he did with Grady Sizemore next season. Cut the cord. Having a DH who can’t move or play anywhere in the field is not baseball in 2012. You need that spot to be flexible so you can rest certain regulars while keeping their bat in the lineup. Hafner does nothing but hamstring you. Not to mention……He’s just not that good.”
    Get out of my head, TD!
    [Thanks for watching this team all year and reporting on it so that I could take a break and gather my sanity.]

  • Steve

    This is woefully incorrect, and why I give little sympathy to most of the FO-bashers. They make **** up.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Again with the qualifier our second best hitter. As you saw this season being first or second on this team in almost anything doesn’t mean much of anything. This reminds me of listening to the Tribespeak Antonetti performed on ABAO on STO when he threw out how over the past two seasons the Indians had spent more time in first place then any other division opponent. Huh, what, yea but…UGH! Give me a break already.

    I was thinking that all of the Francona talk was a step in the right direction that this organization had somehow realized that they needed to do things differently and it started by bringing in a great person with a ton of baseball knowledge who could teach this team and kick ‘em in the butt at the same time. But after listening to the same old tired Tribespeak and reading boomhauertjs’s comment above I’m thinking he’s probably right. This whole Francona thing is another cheap tactic by the Indians because frankly other then promotions it’s what they do best. I really hope I’m wrong on this one because it seems like Francona would for someone unknow reason wants this job.

  • Steve

    Exactly. Not sure why people don’t want Hafner and Sizemore back based almost solely on emotion. Getting those guys on cheap deals isn’t going to “hamstring” this team.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Btw that Billy Beane guy, he’s pretty good at his job it’s to bad he’s not in another organization where his accomplishments would be more appreciated. I was watching MLB Network last night and they showed the moves he’s made and it was incredible how everyone of them worked. And most of those moves came via trade and trading proven talent, pitching talent too in the likes of Gonzalez and Cahill.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    TD, the last two seasons have made me ache for you. How you can write up a full recap almost every day on the garbage we’ve been supplied is amazing. Ok, maybe a writer at a Pirates’ blog would have it worse, but does such a thing exist?

  • boomhauertjs

    Is your last name Dolan, Shapiro, or Antonetti?I guess we’ll see sometime next week who is right…

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I used to say Dolan but I think it’s Antonetti myself.

  • http://twitter.com/DolanMustSell Dolan Must Sell

    I think either Francona or Alomar will be an improvement over Acta. Sadly, I don’t think either will make a big difference if the team keeps making the same kind of personnel decisions they have in the past.

  • SummitOmar

    TD just wanted to say thanks for the recaps. I don’t often comment but I certainly read every single one.

  • mgbode

    who are we getting to replace him? if we get a young guy like Kubel who might end up being as good or better, then great.

    if we replace Hafner with Lillibridge (or someone like him), then we all lose.

  • mgbode

    Beane has made alot of bad moves too. Not all his moves work and he actually went into a funk between the early 00s and about 3yrs ago where alot of his tricks were copied.

    He went back to basics with his last 2 teams. Lots of cheap, young pitching and gather some mid-level hitting talent through trades and FA (Crisp, Cespedes, etc.)

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Like I said he’s pretty good at his job he did something which hadn’t which was copied and turned into a movie (love seeing a former Indians front office person in Paul DePodesta be so intricate in that btw) then after it stopped being beneficial he found another way to do it again. He made the right moves I won’t discount that not after watching Antonetti and his “All The Wrong Moves” of this past season.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    You need to ask the guru that is Antonetti I don’t know. If it were me and Hafner and Sizemore would come back on the cheap maybe 2-3 million total for both I’d think about it otherwise I’d be preparing to move on in whatever fashion. I’ll believe it when I see it though.

  • mgbode

    no doubt he is good at his job. just noting that he went through a very bad stretch from contention window to contention window.

    and he is 1-5 in playoff series.

    ——————–

    again, for what he has with which to work and what he has been able to create, he is good at his job. nowhere near infallible though.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Very true on both but it would be nice to see Oakland stay on this run they currently find themselves for at least one round.
    Noone other then myself is infallible!

  • mgbode

    i will be appreciative if they can knock out detroit.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    It doesn’t matter to me anymore it’s been a long time since the BoSox and Indians both blew chunks like this season. Only saving grace for me is anyone but the Yankees.

  • mgbode

    it’s really been since the early 80s that both those 2 particular teams were bad at the same time, huh.

    anyways, I have a bit more “sports-hate” in me than that. no way I could ever cheer for the Tigers, Yankees, or Orioles to win anything. So, go A`s and Rangers in the AL.

    i’m a bit more mellow about the NL. Braves (despite ’95), Reds, and Cardinals are all fine by me. I’ve never liked the Giants for whatever reason (I blame Corey Snyder) and the Nats bug me. But, I wouldn’t really be upset if any of the NL teams won either.

  • Steve

    How constructive. I’m not betting either way on if they’ll sign Francona, but to put scare quotes around trying in regard to signing Beltran is laughably incorrect.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    It’s been awhile for sure but I still have an ace in the hole in the Patriots although until last week that wasn’t looking so hot. Oh well. Anyways I’m older now, priorities have changed, seen and been through to much for me to “sports-hate” period anymore. I like Showalter so the O’s don’t bother me and frankly I’m over Detroit. So again, anyone but the Yankees is fine and if it has to be then so be it.

  • TNB

    Theres a dedicated chapter in the book Moneyball that talks about Billy Beane’s teams first halves and second halves. The fact is that the market is completely different around the Trading Deadline than it is during the opening half of the season, and Billy Beane has constantly been able to improve his teams in the short term playing that.
    The thing about the A’s is that everyone wants to look at them as an example of a ‘small market team done right’. The fact of the matter is, though, that the A’s were trash last year, 500 the year before, and they had losing seasons for 3 straight years before that one. Its very doubtful that they can be able to keep a lot of the ‘Young Studs’ they have past the next few seasons. Beane knows this, and is able to make moves and trades that provide his teams with tools for the now and tools for the future. Its why his teams are very cyclical, but its also why he’s one of the best GM’s in baseball, period. However, its fairly unfair (and slightly revisionist) to say that the Indians should be good this year because of the successes of the A’s, when they’ve (the A’s) only recently had success and were fairly bad when the Indians were making the playoffs.
    Too many people harp on the ‘negative’ trades, like the Ubaldo trade, when thats the exact type of aggressive move a GM needs to make when you have a team that COULD have contended. Obviously, there are a lot of things you just cant anticipate, like injuries (except for maybe Sizemore and Hafner [insert lols]), what trades you’ll be offered, who will be hot, cold, etc. etc. and on a small budget team like Cleveland, the margin for error is very slim.
    Its so easy to be an armchair GM/Coach/Owner, what have you, but at the end of the day there are much more intricacies involved than the majority of us will ever know about. To be 100% honest, while this team had glaring deficiencies this year, I cant honestly say I (or anyone I know) ever pegged this team to even really contend in this division, let alone walk away with it. This front office has made some moves that were aggressive, and intended to help us continue in a streak of contention, that any realistic GM would make 9 times out of 10. This front office has also entered a season with some real question marks, like signing grady to a 5m deal, the obvious (and severe) lack of decent right handed hitters (or really, hitters in general), but on paper the indians looked like they had one of the best rotations in baseball, and a fantastic pen. My favorite team, the Rays, often have teams that look like this, except that they get unexpected results from other places, and have been successful because of it, but the Rays comparison is a whole nother story.
    As we now can see, things didnt pan out, but I’m not going to call for the heads of people when, quite frankly, I dont think a replacement would do any better. The way I see it, this front office’s true test is coming up in this offseason, with our current crop of top prospects finally hitting the bigs (sans a few) and with a few of the biggest trading chips in the league at our disposal to prepare us for the future.
    Long story short; the expectations of this place are sometimes ridiculous, but to compare these two teams right now is unfair, and the signature Cleveland train of sadness sometimes needs to not move full steam ahead and maybe sit back and realize what the shape of the league is for a team like ours.

  • LaundroMat

    What about that David Huff? Sure showing signs, eh?

  • Steve

    I guess we will