Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cleveland Indians - Putting Me To Bed Early

This is how bad it's gotten. I have DirecTV and get the MLB Extra Innings package. This year, DirecTV actually started offering both the home and away broadcasts of each game. But there are only so many channels, so occasionally you only get one broadcast of the game.

Of course today was a long day of work, followed by an even longer run after that, and when I hunkered down with a snack and a beverage to watch the game and saw there was only one broadcast of the Indians-White Sox game I turned pale. For the couple of minutes before 8 PM with the blank screen starring at me I prepared for the worst... The Hawk.

Ken "The Hawk" Harrelson, one of the most biased, unbearable, annoying homers ever known. Maybe he does it for you, but not for me. I want the game called, I want some excitement and I expect a little home team rah-rah but to say The Hawk is over the top is the understatement of the millennium. To say I was relieved when the SportsTime Ohio logo flashed across my screen wouldn't do me justice. Unfortunately, it was the highlight of the night.

I say this because I have had the MLB Extra Innings package since 2002. Obviously, 2002 to 2006 were not "prime years" for the Indians. But I stuck with them. If they had a weekday afternoon game or a West Coast tilt and it was impossible for me to watch I would DVR it and watch the highlights when I could. If the game was an extra inning affair or an 8 PM EST start time I would always finish up watching the game. Always. The Nationals were not in DC when I first moved here and the Orioles are in the AL, too far away and I ain't rooting for the Rat Capital of the USA, Baltimore. (It IS the Rat Capital of the USA, FYI.)

But for the first time ever, I turned off the game and went to bed. On back-to-back nights no less. That is how bad of baseball the Tribe is playing right now. It's not just that they are losing, you can play an entertaining game and lose or play well and simply come out on the short end, but they are losing in such weak and meager ways there was no doubt in my mind that the game was over when I shut my TV off.

The script is still the same. Inept offense hangs the starting pitching out to dry wasting an excellent effort that 32 of 32 MLB teams would die for. And the offense is so ugly it's not just that they aren't scoring runs, they aren't even getting hits to threaten to score a run. Maybe they do get a hit but it's not usually for extra bases. If they do get extra bases, unless Casey Blake is up, the runner stands there helplessly. And if they do must up a home run odds are it is a solo shot. Thanks, Michael Aubrey! Double plays are the norm. Throw in a runner getting thrown out at the plate or getting caught too far off second base and there is a scoring opportunity squandered routinely.

But the starting pitching is SO good somehow the Indians remain with a chance in the game. But the bullpen can't keep a small led small or a tied game tied or a close game close lately. It started at home against Toronto with Rafael Betancourt and worked its way to Masa Kobayashi in Cincinnati. Jensen Lewis made me turn off the TV last night in the bottom of the 8th for the first time ever. Jorge Julio outdid him tonight when he failed to keep the game close in the 5th and looked like he wanted to fight Victor Martinez on the mound shortly thereafter. The TV was off once again.

This team has no fire, no spark, no life when they are at bat and it makes them difficult to watch. Right now, at no point do you feel good about any at bat unless it is Ben Francisco. Everyone wants to blame Eric Wedge and Derek Shelton, but honestly, there are so many players horrendously under performing I don't know what else they can do.

I am not defending Derek Shelton, he may need to go, but what happened when Eddie Murray was cast aside and Shelton was hired is not the norm. The Tribe hitters from top to bottom are so incapable of putting together a good plate appearance right now that it really doesn't matter who the hitting coach is. And even with good hitters, turning it completely around was a statistical anomaly.

I am neither an Eric Wedge supporter nor a detractor. But you have to give him credit for trying. He has tried everyone possible in the #2 hole. He moved Travis Hafner, Jhonny Peralta, Franklin Gutierrez and everyone else up, down and around to try and wake them from their slumber. He's given guys days off who were slumping. He's benched guys for poor approach at the plate. He's spot started some of his reserves, minus Andy Marte, to try and shake things up. But when not a soul is producing, it doesn't matter what Uncle Eric does, it's not going to work.

So we are 46 games into 2008 and it already feels like the Cleveland Indians are Dead Men Walking. I have no faith they can get more than 2 runs a game. No faith they can get more than 6 hits a game. No faith the bullpen can keep them in the game. And yet they still sit only 3 1/2 games out of the AL Central lead after losing 5 in a row.

If they want to be the contender that they have the potential to be they need to do something to wake themselves up. Whatever it is they need to do it quickly. Why? Because they are putting me, and a lot of other frustrated Tribe fans, to be early each and every night... and it's not even Memorial Day.

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