Hello and spiffy Monday morning to everyone!
As a long suffering Indians fan, I am here to put my spin on the start to the season and my brutally honest assessment of my team’s chances in 2019. Today is April 1st…April Fools Day and as of this morning, the Cleveland Indians are in last place in their division sitting at 1 win and 2 losses. The silver lining is that the season is just begun and the team is only a game out of first place.
The Indians matched up against the team (Minnesota Twins) that is perceived as having the biggest threat to the Indians’ repeat as division winner. The first series did not go all that great as you may have garnered by my noting that the team has one win and two losses. The propaganda from the team’s front office this year is “Look at our Pitching!” Yes the team has well above average (starting) pitching with some questionable players in the bullpen but as any knowledgeable baseball person will tell you…pitchers are no different than any player. Even the best players will have ‘slumps’. So what happens when you are riding your pitching staff and they hit a slump? They need the hitters to bail them out occasionally…or more than occasionally. So here is the potentially fatal flaw in the deep thinkers plan from the front office personnel: where are your impact hitters? Looking up and down the Indians lineup that is a deeply concerning question. Yes Francisco Lindor is one of those guys but he is on the Injured List and may be there for a little while. Some would say Jose Ramirez but not so fast. Refer back to my previous statement about the best players slumping and that is most certainly Jose right now. Including the last two months of last year and through spring training this year he has slumped (nice way to say really sucked). Don’t get me wrong, he is a good player but since he got all homer-happy last year, he has not been the same impact player and it has affected all aspects of his game. The Indians outfield as a whole is below average as a hitting group. Hate to say that but I’m not here to blow sunshine in your ear or however that cliche is supposed to go. The infield group, without Lindor and pre-All-Star break Ramirez, is woeful. This takes into consideration a decently productive Carlos Santa at first and weak hitting catcher Roberto Perez as well. Hanley Ramirez at DH adds a sprinkle of hope for the offense but I expect him to be ‘on’ two or three days per week out of six to seven days of games.
Let’s chomp on some tangible numbers, albeit in a small sample size. In three games in the opening series loss in Minnesota, the Indians offensive output was as follows:
12 hits, 5 runs, 1 home run, 10 walks and 39 strikeouts.
Hold on, I haven’t finished retching in the background. ((Long pause)) OK I’m back. Now let’s take a look at the previous three games that ‘counted’ in the playoff series loss against the Astros to end last season:
13 hits, 6 runs, 2 home runs, 6 walks and 30 strikeouts.
A quick look and those numbers appear to be pretty similar. Lots of strikeouts, some walks and the other numbers are about the same. The difference in the first three categories was one more hit, run and home run. Notable in that Astros series was Francisco Lindor had both home runs (4 hits total).
Some Indians followers would make the point that the team lost a lot of the offensive production from last year’s team. All the more reason to be concerned. Last year’s team played the season like it was the Cactus League schedule and they could afford to as all four other teams in the division were not seriously focused on winning games. This year with Detroit, Chicago and Kansas City still trying to develop their team’s concepts, the Indians are in real trouble. Somewhere Ricky Gutierrez and has balky neck are trying to nod along. In the first Major League movie as the season approaches, fans are reading the paper, seeing the roster and asking “Who are these F%&&$g guys?” That is essentially where this group of Indians players rank as well.
As I stated above, I am a long suffering Indians fan…obviously not as long as some but still 27 years is nothing to sneeze at. Some newer fans at The Jake (or Progressive Field) have no clue who Tim Crews, Steve Olin or Bob Ojeda are in Indians lore. But as a fan who came to the table at the end of the 1992 season and really became invested with the tragic events of the spring of 1993, it was all the more of a cruel tease with the 1994 shutdown. If only 1994 had been played out, then I believe the 1995 season would have ended differently with that experience and trial by fire under their belts. I think 1995 would have been a championship team. The dominoes fell down the line in 1996 and 1997 as well. What could have been?
So back to the here and now. With a nub of the season gone, the Indians look like a mound of shaving cream heaped across the roller coaster tracks as a roller coaster full of cars steams their way. Hopefully hiding in that mound of fluff is unseen steel and cement engineered to withstand the oncoming force but I have my doubts. Regardless of the game outcomes, I will continue to follow and watch and implore the team to win. Because as a fan, that is your job, for better or worse. Maybe the Indians’ powers that be will get lucky and a couple of players will develop or step in for injured players and make the most of their opportunity. This is my hope and I guess we shall see what each month brings.
Get well soon Frankie and let’s hope all the other AL Central teams lose like it’s the fashionable thing to do.
Note: I am not advocating derailing roller coasters as the potential for injury and loss of income for the owning party could be very significant. Carry on and play ball!