September 17, 2010
As the regular season winds down, 22 teams are facing an offseason filled with golf rounds and hot-stove strategery.
Meanwhile, the fans of those squads are looking at the prospect of spending the winter without the warmth of a postseason appearance. In an attempt to bring some closure between franchise and follower, we're asking a blogger from each team to write a cathartic missive to their disappointing 2010 lineups.
Up next is Vince Grzegorek of '64 And Counting, whose blog name would be "'48 And Counting" if we were just talking World Series titles in Cleveland.
Dear Cleveland Indians,
I've recently been informed that you are still here. If I seem taken aback by that news, it's because I distinctly remember kicking you out earlier this year.
You remember, don't you? It was May 17, to be exact.
In fact, it was the specific moment on May 17 when Jhonny Peralta(notes) lumbered his way up the middle, in the awkward and unathletic manner of which only Jhonny Peralta is capable, and collided with Asdrubal Cabrera(notes), breaking Cabrera's left arm and sending him to the disabled list and operating table.
It was the perfect literal and figurative emblem of the season: Old fat shortstop vs. new young shortstop, one of the last vestiges of old Tribe continuing to ruin the promise of the new Tribe, a guy on the field that no one wanted to see going above and beyond the normal miscues of errors and strikeouts to physically maim a guy everyone wanted to see and screw the team over in a whole new way.
Peralta is a bad baseball player, and Tribe fans have long worried that through osmosis, he might infect his teammates with his plagues. Little did they know he would be more proactive in his assault on quality baseball.
It was three years ago that the Indians were one win away from the World Series. A tailspin and fire sale ensued. They were going to draft better, cultivate the young talent from trades and hope to contend in a few years.
The intersection between 2007 and that magical future date when the Tribe will rise again was located at the exact point in space and time where Peralta's body met Cabrera's arm.
Oh look, here it is:
You remember my reaction, right? The moment the collision was over — Cabrera writhing in pain, Peralta staring blankly into the distance — I yelled, screamed, told you to pack your stuff and get out, offered to hurl Lou Marson(notes) out the window to expedite the process, then put in the DVD of Major League.
I was not subtle.
But you didn't listen, did you? You stuck around, apparently.
Where were you this whole time? Were you hiding in the extra bathroom? Is that why I found a teacup and a camera by the bathroom mirror? What did you eat? How did I never notice you lingering around?
Were you there watching me while I watched my "porn" (read: Rays, Yankees, Padres, Phillies) and relaxed on my couch naked and eating burritos (sadly, that part's not a metaphor)? Wait, you were? Oh. Awkward.
Well, I hope you get the point this time: Out... Now.
The Bad Times: As crushing and unsurprising as the Cabrera injury was, it was not the most disconcerting. That title goes to the litany of various ailments of one Grady Sizemore(notes) — former Sports Illustrated cover boy, once touted MVP candidate, the guy Mark Shapiro said of in the SI article: "without a doubt one of the greatest players of our generation."
Sizemore has played only 139 games in the last two seasons, hampered by injuries to... well, he's dealt with injuries to just about every part of his chiseled body. The worst part is the injuries seem to be nagging, born of no specific cause, and quite serious. Microfracture surgery now has Sizemore sidelined until at least spring training.
What once could be considered the centerpiece of the team, the stud you could build around, is now a complimentary piece that can hardly be relied upon to even be in uniform. Sure, Shin-Soo Choo(notes) has ably picked up the mantle of team badass, but you know it takes a couple of these guys to really win. And I've got a feeling Sizemore might not be one of those guys, even if he gets healthy one day.
Besides that? Lordy, where to start? Jacobs Field has been a house of boring, boring horrors.
Lou Marson, he of the .573 OPS, has played 77 games at catcher. Jayson Nix(notes) is second on the team in homers with 11. You forced us to watch Russell Branyan(notes). Andy Marte(notes) is still on the team, earning a paycheck, and not selling ice cream at a Little League field.
The pitching staff has been various combinations of awful, injured, awful while being injured, and David Huff(notes)-ed (1.695 WHIP!). Matt LaPorta(notes), the "power" hitter swiped from Milwaukee in the Sabathia trade, is slugging .353. Kerry Wood(notes) made gobs of money for hurting his arm and failing to close games, which is gobsmacking. Every important piece — Wood, Choo, Carlos Santana(notes), Asdrubal Cabrera, Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner(notes) — was injured for some significant period of time, plus a host of others that I would have injured myself given the opportunity.
You also thought giving away Whitesnake CDs at a game was a good idea. Oh, and Chief Wahoo is still around and science proves looking at him makes us all hate Asian people.
Only four teams have won fewer games this year. No wonder you are last in attendance (1,288,972 to date) and your owner falls asleep in his suite during games.
The Good Times: OK, there were some. You finally figured out how to make a bobblehead of Shin-Soo Choo that looks like Shin-Soo Choo. There was this epic rant from Bruce Drennan, which was entertaining. You started Spring Training 5-0 and included that record in a press release that stated you were the "only undefeated team on the planet Earth." Funny.
Fausto Carmona(notes) has showed recent flashes of his former self. Choo remains a monster. Pitching prospect Carlos Carrasco(notes) has a 2.18 ERA in his six starts this year. Uber-catching-prospect Carlos Santana was just as good as billed in his short time in Cleveland (.868 OPS) before, of course, breaking his leg.
Most importantly, you traded Peralta, which prevented him from injuring more than one player this year. You deserve kudos for that I suppose.
It's Not All You: We get it. You had to trade Lee, Martinez, and Sabathia. You couldn't afford to sign them. Economic landscape of baseball... blah blah blah. We get it. (It's here that I'd add you didn't have to fork over $57 million over four years to Travis Hafner, but whatever.)
Really, we get it though — small market team, narrow window, gotta trade and draft well, build through the minors, everyone has to stay healthy. This year wasn't unexpected. We knew you would be bad. But...
Shape Up or Ship Out: ... well, it's almost time for those prospects and acquisitions to come through. Probably not next year, but definitely the year after. You had to unload your gaudy soon-to-be free agents but you had better show us something in return. Brantley, Santana, LaPorta, Carrasco and others need to play and produce and not turn into Trevor Crowe(notes) or Marte or Jeremy Sowers(notes) Part II.
And the draft picks. You failed so miserably (Beau Mills in front of Jason Heyward(notes), anyone?) in the past but Alex White (2.28 ERA and 1.106 WHIP in Akron) and Lonnie Chisenhall (.801 OPS in Akron) are shining in the minors. We need them to shine here. That's the only way this works. But you know that.
Barring injuries, next year's lineup will include Brantley, Sizemore, Choo, Hafner, LaPorta, some combination of Jayson Nix/Jason Donald(notes) and a stop-gap filler at third base until Chisenhall is ready. Not bad, right? That looks like a team that could score some runs.
But that really only happens if Brantley, LaPorta and company step up. And it also really only matters if you can pitch. Otherwise the window of the next two or three years closes and all we'll be left with is found memories of Chris Perez's hair.
Please don't let that happen.
See you next April,
* * *
Follow Vince on Twitter: @vincethepolack.
Read Big League Stew's previous Dear John letters here.