(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
The Monday of June 15th, 2009 was an optimistic one for Tribe fans. Their team had just won six of nine games and just witnessed their reigning Cy Young award winner no-hit the first place St. Louis Cardinals for 7 innings, pulling to a record of 29-36, the closest to .500 they had been for a long time. The Indians carried a 12-7 lead heading into the seventh inning over a solid Brewer ball club. Then, after the bullpen had been somewhat solid for a few weeks, the group of former 2009 Columbus Clippers gave up a collective eight earned runs over their collective relief duty and retrospectively finished the teams' chances for a comeback season (fittingly it was Major League the movie Monday, were all fans got Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn bobbleheads). Wedge went to his bullpen five times that night, and these are the folks (in order) who came out and what they did.
Greg Aquino 1 IP 2 H 2 ER 1 BB
Luis Vizcaino 1 1/3 IP 0 H 2 ER 3 BB
Matt Herges 0 IP 1 H 2 ER 1 BB
Rafael Perez 0 IP 3 H 2 ER 1 BB
Joe Smith 1 2/3 IP 0 H 0 ER 0 BB
Smith did a good job, but that was after Prince Fielder hit a line shot Grand Slam and took the air out of the Indians sails. Perez caught the WBC disease in early April and has been a trainwreck ever since. Looking at the first three names, would you really think any team that hoped to contend for a division would be trotting out these losers? I thought so. Why do I bring this game up? Because it started a string of 15 winnable games for the Tribe, and ended today with a loud thud. The Indians are 2-13 over those contests and look like a pathetic, hapless ball club. Their pitching staff is just terrible, and their hitters seem to be going through the motions over their latest five game losing streak. For all the Eric Wedge bashers who believe he should be canned, I can't disagree with you totally, but just look at this roster. If you look to the glorious (and looking like last in a long while) AL Central Division Championship season, their rotation was as follows...
Sabathia/Carmona/Westbrook/Byrd/Laffey (with Lee down in Triple A trying to re-find himself)
Lee/Pavano/Huff/Sowers/Ohka (with Lewis and Reyes done for the year and Carmona figuring things out in the minors)
Can anyone expect a team to win with that rotation, coupled with the abomination going out in right-center field? The team does struggle early every season, and that could be attributed to the coaching staff. The knock of Wedge moving guys around in the field and the lineup is a 50/50 problem. If the team had guys capable of playing everyday and performing consistantly, the manager would not be forced to do that (I will go over the Pros and Cons of Wedge later this month, probably more cons). Injuries cannot be made as an excuse in 2009 because they stunk when they were healthy. Would I fire the manager? No, because it really doesn't matter right now, they are going nowhere. If he is brought back in 2010, most fans will be up in arms, so I imagine the Indians will be forced to move in a different direction.
Most of the blame should be put on GM Mark Shapiro for feeling like his staff would be able to compete at previous levels. Besides Lee, there were no sure things in the rotation since Fausto struggled in 2008 and the Pavano/Reyes/Lewis/Huff/Sowers/Laffey poo poo platter contained way too many hopes and ifs. The real key to baseball is starting pitching, and no rotation guy(besides Lee) on the Indians has an ERA under five. If the Indians ever want to contend again, starting pitching has to be the focus. Bringing in has-beens like Pavano or bright flashes of success like Reyes and Lewis only mask the real inadequacies in your ballclub (no wonder why Hector Rondon was moved so quickly BACK to starting duty). They need as a front office to come up with a plan today to infuse more upper echelon pitching into Double A and above that can be effective in the next 2 seasons.
After reading Paul's article over at the DiaTribe
about Cliff Lee, I am now in the camp of moving him this season. Go get some stud pitchers that may develop into something in a few years, because contending next season seems like a pipe dream, even in a winable division. If they do play better, well then that is a bonus because Lee and Martinez will likely walk the following year, so changes would have to be made. Trade Cliff now when he has his highest value. It's not like attendance is going to drop, this City gave up on the Indians back in May.
As for the White Sox
series, well it was awful. The Tribe was only really in the first game, but they didn't even score a run until the ninth when they were already trailing 6-0. Sizemore still looks hurt, Martinez is in a slump, the rest of the guys looked disinterested, and the pitching continues to be piss poor. They should use the Rick Vaughn bobblehead as a "JoeBoo" to exercise the demons that are this season. It is going to be a long 3 months out at Progressive field, so let's hope to see some more of the young guys and see if they are worth a look for the future. Anyways, 2011 isn't that far away, is it?