The Cleveland Indians were expected to contend with the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox for the AL Central title—and perhaps one of those extra wild-card playoff spots—this season.
But it just never came together for the Tribe, and the season climax will probably end up being the just-ended 11-game losing streak the team endured.
Grady Sizemore was expected to provide the lineup with a strong leadoff hitter and excellent outfield defense, but succumbed to a back injury and hasn't seen the field at all this year.
Carlos Santana took a major step back, hitting only 12 home runs with 51 RBI to this point, perhaps worn down by the demands of playing catcher. And Asdrubal Cabrera hasn't been much better, supplying half of the 25-homer, 90-RBI output he gave the Indians last year.
The starting rotation has been a major disappointment as well. The major offender here has been Ubaldo Jimenez, who was expected to be an ace-level starter—or at least a strong No. 2 starter behind Justin Masterson—when he was acquired from Colorado a year ago.
Jimenez actually highlights the curiosity of this year's Indians team. General manager Chris Antonetti and president Mark Shapiro made what looked to be an "all-in" move last season in getting Jimenez. To pull off the trade, the Tribe had to tap into a deep well of minor league talent that looked to make Cleveland a strong future contender.
That move didn't pay off in the way the Indians had hoped. Maybe Jimenez is just never going to be the pitcher that he was in the first half of 2010 with a 15-1 record and 2.20 ERA. But a major investment like that was never followed up with a commitment to bringing in some top-level free agent talent for this season.
Did the plan change? Did ownership see that the Jimenez move failed and decide it wasn't worth supplementing with more talent?
We may never know the answers. But the Indians look like a team that squandered an opportunity and may spend years trying to recover.