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.