Sunday, June 08, 2008

Failure is an option
What's it going to take for people to realize the Indians are finished this season?

There's little question that when it comes to this team, I'm negative by nature. Burned too many times in belief, I have become an agnostic Indians fan. There might be something out there, but I haven't seen it, so I won't believe until proven otherwise (I feel the same way about global warming).

When this season ends, there will be those in the Indians PR department who will try to tell you injuries are to blame for the disappointment. The team had potential, but it was untracked by the injury bug. Curse that damn bug. It was out of the front office's hands.

Bull.

This team underachieved from the third game of the season on. The hitting wasn't just inconsistent, it was horrible. The starting pitching was very good, but constantly went to waste.

The bullpen has been bad because Rafael Betancourt can't get anyone out, but manager Eric Wedge is still using him like the dominant arm he was last year.

Joe Borowski was hurt, though the Indians denied it. Now, just giving him a chance to blow a save is a challenge.

The problems for the Indians were set when the front office made no major improvements on last year's club. Looking back there were red flags all over the place, but general Manager Mark Shapiro ignored them, probably because he had to.

At the very least, the club had to know something wasn't right with Hafner. The Indians announcers and their other friends in the media pushed his 100-RBI season last year as solid, but the truth is he was barely half the player he was in 2006.

Casey Blake is a streak hitter prone to slumps (I write this as he is in an upswing). Yet the Tribe made him the fifth-highest paid player on the roster, rather than bring in a bat to play third. Blake turns 35 this year. The Indians had to at least consider his mostly solid play last year might not continue.

Asdrubal Cabrera has a book now, whereas he did not before. Pitchers didn't know how to go at him, where as now they know he can't lay off the inside pitch. The Indians had to figure sophomore difficulties were possible.

Jason Michaels? Really?

David Dellucci is what he is -- a platoon outfielder. Same with Franklin Gutierrez.

Victor Martinez is the surprise of the season. The fact that he hasn't connected on one homer a week into June is startling, even if his hamstring is hurt. The Tribe gets a pass on this one.

Ryan Garko is finally playing back to form. His struggles were almost as surprising to me as Martinez's. The Indians do have backup plans for Garko, but sadly almost all of them involve Blake in some way.

The Indians apparently thought playing with a 24-man roster for most of last season (see Rouse, Mike) was such a good idea they are doing it again with Andy Marte. He's gotten some more at-bats lately, but let's face it -- he'll never be the Indians full-time third baseman. The Indians need to cut their losses with this guy, because even if he does blossom somewhere else, it won't mean anything since Wedge would never have played him full-time here.

There are other problems (Jhonny Peralta and Grady Sizemore aren't exactly putting together all-star campaigns), but those are the major ones. There were a number of holes with this group that could have developed, but there appeared to be little backup plan.

And that spelled doom.

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1 Comments:

At 7:45 PM , Anonymous Erik said...

I think everyone in the Indians' organization is just paralyzed right now. They never in a million years saw this kind of downfall coming one year after reaching the seventh game of the ALCS. Now, from Dolan and Shapiro on down, they're totally shellshocked and at a loss for what to do next.

The complete and utter failure of every aspect of this team save for starting pitching (which, of course, is now crumbling under the weight of injuries), is nothing short of incredible. But really, it shouldn't be surprising. The cracks in the armor were there last year.

The Indians' offense lacks talent. Just like the Cavs' roster around LeBron isn't adequate, the Tribe's offense is just plain not adequate. As Paul Hoynes pointed out in an answer in Sunday's "Hey Hoynsie" if Martinez and Hafner don't produce, there is no one else. Not even someone who can pick up the slack short term. The offense is dead in the water without those two producing at a high level.

That's a failure on the part of Mark Shapiro and his staff to identify, acquire and develop top-shelf hitters. It's a serious, fundamental flaw in the "character before talent" Tribe philosophy and it's coming back to bite them in a huge, huge way this year.

That's why I'm not part of the lynch mob out to get Derek Shelton. You don't blame the mechanic if he can't get your Yugo to run like a Ferrari.

The offensive cracks were there last year when the Indians went through a July-August offensive malaise that was masked because of their hot start. The bullpen cracks were there last year. Borowski was quite evidently declining athletically even though he notched 45 saves. If his arm passed a physical, he'd be a Phille right now.

Betancourt and Perez both tailed off in the second half. Tony Sipp got hurt. There was no cavalry to ride in from Buffalo last year or this year.

Yet Shapiro stood pat, figuring his team had established itself as an AL powerhouse and wouldn't backslide like this. There is having rose-colored glasses, and then there is just plain not being vigilant enough. GMs who stand pat and assume success are GMs who lose ground, and GMs who eventually get fired for being ineffectual. Hopefully that's not Shapiro's future, but he's taken a big leap in that direction in the past six months.

 

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