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Indians Indians Archive What Would It Take?
Written by Jeff Rich

Jeff Rich

The FansThere’s no need for an obituary for these Indians, everyone knows the 2012 chapter of this organization died long ago.  We need not announce it, discuss it, and cite the names of those who grieve, or have any type of memorial service.  The few who remain simply tune in for the games because that’s what they do, but even the most loyal fans of the feathered have ponder the idea of jumping ship.  When it comes to those who have opted not to hang on, will they ever be back?  What will it take for that to occur?

We’re not spending our hard-earned money to jam the turnstiles at Ontario and Carnegie on a regular basis, and only reluctantly tuning in to Matt and Rick for 3+ hours per night after we’ve exhausted our limited summer programming options on the DVR.  In the few weeks that we’ve witnessed our heroes collapse in this dreadful month of August, making this season a lost cause, the Cleveland Indians brand has surely lost some loyal customers along the way.  And, we can’t help but notice the scars run deeper than just a 4-20 stretch since that team from the Motor City visited in late July.

Major LeagueHad everything remained the way it was in the “before time”, the losing culture that made Cleveland and the Indians the perfect inept back drop for “Major League”, maybe it wouldn’t be so difficult to watch the relationship between the people of Cleveland and the professional ball club disintegrate.  It just so happened that we were too busy enjoying a new state-of-the-art ballpark in 1994, and a 100-44 pennant winning club in 1995 to turn our backs on a sport that cancelled its 1994 post-season because of a labor struggle.  We had a culture of winning baseball in Cleveland, for the first time since our parents were children, and we got everything we could have ever wanted out of the Indians, except, of course, a World Championship.

It took some time to adjust to the end of that initial early Jacobs Field era, but those who were patient enough to stay on board were rewarded with a 96-win Central Division Champion in 2007.  Having faced the reality of losing Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez, the aftermath of the collapse in 2007 was just one gut punch after another.  This would have been a good time to let go of whatever passion we had for the Indians, and the departures of CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and Victor Martinez was enough to crush the threshold for many.  Surely, after consecutive mid-season collapses to cancel out hot starts, patience is wearing thin for even the so-called diehards.  We, the fans, cling to that “455” above the right field mezzanine, but that all ended on April 4, 2001, and thanks to our favorite baseball fans in New England, it isn’t even a record any more.

What would it take to get us back there?


FauxbertoLook, if it’s that easy to get you back, you probably weren’t that far gone to begin with.  Maybe, you’re just frustrated that this Roberto Hernandez in 2012 hasn’t been the 2007 “Bug Game” Fausto Carmona, or it’s possible that you’re pissed that the Indians have welcomed this fraud back into their rotation with such open arms.  Most likely, it has something to do with seeing 3.5 turn into 13 so quickly, speaking in terms of “Games Back” in the American League Central Division race, of course.  If you’re already ready to come back, and it’s okay if you want to, you likely just hold out hope that this team hasn’t actually quit or given up.  To bounce back from this, not to anything crazy like the playoffs, but just respectability, might say something about Manny Acta’s ability to lead.

Something miraculous would help, and we’re not too proud to hope for something beyond reason to stop the bleeding, or at least numb the pain.  What if, and I know those words have to cause nausea in the context of these Cleveland Indians by now, but what if Zach McAllister treats the baseball world to it’s fourth perfect game of the season, which would be the third at SafeCo Field.  If 27 outs is too much to ask of McAllister, there are other ways to shoot for the moon here, no Indians player has gone yard 4 times in a game since 1959, and Seattle’s projected starter Hisashi Iwakuma for Wednesday afternoon isn’t exactly the candidate to yield such a feat, but that would at least get people talking about Cleveland in a positive light.  It’s very likely that we’ll have to rely on memories of Len Barker and Rocky Colavito if we want to reflect on those accomplishments in a Cleveland context.

Next Season

This is still a tall order, to expect the departed fan to be back for Opening Day is probably wishful thinking, at best.  I don’t know what’s realistic for the Indians to win the off-season, but I think “different” would be seen as “better” for many.  Every team gets a clean slate on Opening Day, everyone is on a level playing field, tied for first and last place at the same time.  Of course, personnel decisions will matter.  Will Manny Acta be on the top step of the dugout, and if not, is there a considerable upgrade out there?

ActaWhether or not Acta is still there may end up being secondary to what names he can put on his lineup card, and what “suit” will be responsible for the names made available to him.  In a typical situation, given only the information that I have, I would assume that Chris Antonetti and Mark Shapiro would be relieved of their duties, but I really don’t how much they’re hamstrung by ownership.  No matter what we hear about Front Office near-misses like Josh Willingham and Yoenis Cespedes, from where I sit, there are no guarantees that they had the green light to pull the trigger on anyone other than Grady Sizemore.

Maybe history, specifically current events, allows management to learn from their mistakes.  It’s possible that they make a splash, not a Pujols type of splash, but they do what they need to do to be better than Chicago, Detroit, and Kansas City (all currently ahead of them in the standings) by adding economically viable pieces.  Can we hope for someone to come out of nowhere and surprise us like Cliff Lee did in 2008, or at the very least, get something out of Ubaldo Jimenez or Carlos Santana?  Is it too much to expect Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley to put it together at the plate for a full season?

One thing is for certain, no one will be all-in with this team before the All-Star Break, regardless of how they come out of the gate.  I’ll tell you, I’m an optimist, and I don’t trust them.  I won’t care if they’re 57-8; I know what this team is capable of doing because I’ve seen it play out in real life over the last 14 months.  The reality of the situation is that we’d rather not have the hype of any early season success if it cannot be sustained.  If ownership is serious about trying to contend in 2013, they need to put together a team with depth, and that means we’re not relying on players born before 1977 to get us over the hump.  For the record, I doubt contending in 2013 is a top priority for the Dolan family.


Speaking of ownership, and staying with the theme that different is better because it isn’t the same, new ownership would go a long way towards bringing back those frustrated fans.  The bottom line is that fans have had enough cheap hot dogs, nostalgic give-aways, and fireworks; fans want winning baseball.  That’s the only thing that matters to most of us.  We’ll pay $8 or even $12 for a Sugardale Hot Dog in late October, if it means we can buy tickets to see the Indians play in late October.  It happened in 2007 under the Dolan’s ownership, so we have a precedent of the Indians doing it under them, even if you want to call that season a fluke.

It’s going to take a Division Championship, and possibly a League Championship Series berth at a minimum for some.  I know there are some folks out there that don’t see either as a reality without a change at the top.  Now, my idea of the top is Mark Shapiro, and I do wonder if his relationship with Larry Dolan is too strong to sever without selling the team.  And, Dolan has not publicly admitted that he’s interested in selling, no matter how much fans push NBA moguls like Dan Gilbert or Mark Cuban to throw their names in the hat.  Please, stop holding your breath for a big name to come along and throw Steinbrenner money at the problem.  The Indians woes aren’t strictly financial.

TLaPortahe Indians drafted poorly for a while.  The majority of the blame for that falls on the shoulders of John Mirabelli, but the big picture dictates that Mark Shapiro, and ultimately Larry Dolan have to own this problem.  If you take our own Al Ciammiachella at face value, and you definitely should, the failures we saw on Mirabelli’s watch should not continue to occur with Brad Grant at the wheel, when it comes to the draft.  How the talent is developed is another big piece of the pie, whether we’re talking about players that were drafted or acquired via trade.  Guys like Matt LaPorta and Jason Knapp aren’t exactly poster children for the Indians farm system.

Then again, what if (there’s those two words again) it really is a curse.  Should the Indians drop Chief Wahoo or the “Indians” name altogether?  Would a total re-branding of professional baseball in Cleveland help matters more than organizational changes?  While I try to keep an open mind about such things, these concerns are misguided, and tangential to the actual point here. 

Frankly, I doubt anything other than an improvement in the product on the field matters at all in the long run.  When I wonder if I should raise my children as Cleveland fans, when my current locale away from the North Coast gives me an excuse not to, only one number matter in my mind and it’s a priority to most Cleveland fans: 1964.  If the Indians do something, anything to make that number slightly less relevant in the world of Cleveland sports, the fans will be back eventually.  They might even fill every seat 455 consecutive times.

Winning the whole flipping thing; that’s what it would take.

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