I can’t take anymore after last night. It’s the same script day in and day out. Take one exceptional starting pitching performance, sprinkle in minimal support from the offense to tie or take the lead only to have the bullpen hand the game right back to the opponent in painfully excruciating fashion. Ladies and gentlemen… Your 2008 Cleveland Indians!
Last night was even more painful as revitalized Cliff Lee was once again a victim on the Tribe’s tragic 2008 formula. Lee could conceivably be 15-1 or even 14-0 if the offense was somewhat existent and the bullpen was just cohesive. Just as they failed C. C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona last year, the team looks to be squandering Lee’s attempt to be the Indians’ first 20 game winner since Gaylord Perry in 1974.
I will give the offense a pass last night as John Danks has been just as impressive as Lee this season, but it doesn’t help that the team continues to struggle to score three, let alone four, runs on any given night. If anything they battled all night long as Casey Blake’s solo homer in the 10th gave the Tribe the lead for mere moments. But that is one of the Indians’ few weapons, the solo home run. I reiterate: two runs make it difficult to win.
Ironically, on a night when Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez actually looked like Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez circa 2007 the bullpen still collapsed under the pressure of a close game. I’ll be nice. Joe Borowski looks done. When Alexei Ramirez, DeWayne Wise and Orlando Cabrera beat you with relative ease, it’s time to say sayonara.
Realistically, 2008 has been over for the Tribe for weeks. They went 6-12 in Interleague Play when no other team in the AL Central went worse than 12-6. That 6-12 was also against the last place Cincinnati Reds and every team in the NL West that is below .500 in a division where the leader is 42-42.
They are 13-18 versus the AL Central after going 48-24 in 2007. Now they sit in last place, all by their lonesome and 11.5 games behind the White Sox, who have beaten them five straight times. Even the usually hapless Kansas City Royals look to have more spark than the Erie Warriors.
Because of all of this I think it safe to dole out some things that I’d like to see the rest of the year to prep for 2009. So here are Ten Things I’d Like to See the Tribe Do for the Rest of 2008:
10. See What Andy Marte Can Do
Listen I know he has been horrible this year. I know he did nothing out of camp last year. But give the kid a couple weeks of playing time and see what he’s made of. He hasn’t exactly gotten an extended look this year. If anything you can unequivocally cut bait if he fails.
9. Make Kobayashi the Closer
Iron Joe is d-o-n-e done. Masa has a history of closing in Japan. Let’s see if he can do it over the course of a few months here in the US. If anything you can mix in a few of the young arms here or there when he needs a rest but he is the only arm on the staff now that I even have an inkling of faith in. Plus he has not appeared in any Japanese alternative-lifestyle films to date and should be rewarded for that.
8. Bring Back The As-Man!... At Shortstop
I have already spewed by venom towards Jhonny “Don’t Call Me Honey” Peralta in this forum I don’t need to do it anymore. Bottom line, if you are going to build a team around pitching as the Indians are inclined to do, then you need excellent defense at the important positions. Asdrubal Cabrera has been playing SS exclusively since his demotion to AAA Buffalo and it is his natural position. He seems to be working out his swing and hopefully it will translate when he returns. I don’t care what you do with Honey… 3B, DH, trade him or cane him, whatever. He is not the answer at SS for this team.
7. Bid Adieu to The Looch
I thought David Dellucci could help this team. He is not. Not even a little. All he is doing is stealing ABs from the younger guys who need them. Trade him, trade him and pay part of his contract, buy him out, release him but he’s only hurting this team. Seeing what a Brad Snyder or a Trevor Crowe can do at this point is much more important.
6. Get Some Athleticism
This may be the most unathletic, uncoordinated and slowest baseball team I have ever seen. Ever. I think the Browns offensive and defensive lines could outrun half the guys on the team. Is it any coincidence that the most athletic player on the team, Grady Sizemore, is the best player on the team right now? Or that when the athletic Ben Francisco and Shin-soo Choo are in the line-up the Indians can actually do things other than play station to station baseball? And solo home runs! The Tribe loves them some solo home runs!
5. Find Out if Ryan Garko is a Viable MLB First Baseman
In a season of disappointments, Garko is often overlooked because so many other guys have been worse. But his lack of power, so-so defense and streaky hitting this season are disconcerting. I thought he’d make big strides this year. He has… backwards.
4. Get Uncle Eric a Personality
I am neither pro or anti Eric Wedge. But I have grown tired of the monotonous press conferences and sound bites. It has worn stale on me and I think it has in the clubhouse as well. A manager has to evolve just as his players do. This see-sawing of even and odd number years has to stop. I don’t put 2008 on him as much as I do Mark Shapiro but Uncle Eric needs to evolve if he wants people to think he is the man to lead this team for years to come.
3. Shop Anyone Not Named Sizemore, Martinez or Carmona
Anyone who can help the Indians is already here. The farm system is not as deep as it once was. Mark Shapiro needs to listen to any and all offers to try and restock for 2009 and 2010. Most of our talent is signed through then. If Shapiro wants to reload rather than rebuild then everyone should be fair game. There are too many holes to fill to not listen to offers.
2. Bring Up the Young Arms
I hope Scott Elarton is all right as he was placed on the Restricted List but he serves no purpose for the Indians. Neither does Rick Bauer who, by the way, stinks. Jensen Lewis has been tweaking his delivery and velocity in AA long enough. Let’s see how he does in the bigs. Let’s see if Brian Slocum has made the conversion to reliever. Rich Rundles, Jeff Stevens and anyone else worthy should be up here seeing if then can contribute to the Tribe. Elarton and Bauer are just taking up space for no reason at this point.
1. Aggressively Shop C. C. Sabathia
Sabathia isn’t resigning here. I don’t blame him for that and appreciate all he has done for the team and city. Every start until he leaves should be treasured by Indians fans. He should be cheered when he eventually comes back to Cleveland as an opponent. The Indians have been scouting potential trade partners and sending out feelers for interest. Shapiro and company need to aggressively shop the hefty lefty. Go to Team A, set the bar high, and tell them what you want. Do the same for Team B and so on and so forth. Someone will get desperate and pull the trigger and overpay. It may not be a Bartolo Colon type deal but Shapiro has every opportunity to get the maximum return on his investment. Do not let the other team drive the negotiations. The Indians have the asset that other covet, they should be using leverage to their advantage. Anything less will set the franchise back.
There are probably ten more things I could mention but these are the ten that ramble around my warped mind on a routine basis. The success of 2007 has made it difficult to let go of 2008 so quickly. Last year, this team was such a joy to watch, write about and discuss that the performance in 2008 has been such a tremendous let down. 2008 has also exposed so many flaws in the organization that it has flipped Indians’ fans topsy-turvy. But the Indians have a chance to set some of the foundation for 2009 and beyond. They just need to realize its time to say goodnight to 2008.