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Indians Indians Archive Never Too High, Never Too Low
Written by Jeff Rich

Jeff Rich

MastyWe can only spend so many hours of the day watching the games, so we’re left with a lot of idle time to speculate.  In a season as uncertain as that of the 2013 Cleveland Indians, we tend to ride some emotional highs and get swallowed up by some of the low points in the season, stretches that make hours feel like days.  It’s okay to take on the “what have you done for me lately?” approach as a fan, not that I deem myself an authority on the subject.

When the club is winning 18 of 22, you might start thinking about the ’27 Yankees or where you’re going to park in early November to catch a glimpse of the parade float that Nick Swisher is going to ride.  When they drop five in a row, you start confusing Matt Albers with Rich Yett and become intrigued by players the Browns are signing to the practice squad before you’ve given Father’s Day a first thought.  If we aren’t on the field, we can’t help ourselves from reaching for the top of the world or thinking about the end of the world.

As some people in the know have spoken up, on the Indians behalf, to open their mind to the idea of moving the Tribe from their lists of pretenders to consideration as legitimate contenders, I could be sold either way after two months of baseball.  This is the same team that I didn’t find mediocre in any aspect, but to say the sum of their parts would make them very average, perhaps on the verge of being slightly above average. 

In short, I thought this different look team would slug their way to plenty of victories and shorten other ballgames with a solid bullpen mowing down the bats in the late innings, but I also saw a pitching rotation that would neutralize many of those efforts.  Thus far, I have my grievances with the lineup one day and with a pitcher or two the next day; the issue of the day varies, but the problems come in waves.  Reading the standings in the morning paper, it appears the Indians are a few games over .500, so they must doing things right more often then they’re up to no good.

Even with Tom Hamilton stirring up the excitement with every pitch that is swung on and belted, I try to stay off Cloud 9 until after Labor Day, because waiting for the other shoe to drop is more than just typical Cleveland sports paranoia.  There may never be another chapter of this team, like the ’95 chapter, that allows you to count your chickens, so we need not burden the city of Cleveland with the prospect of parade plans just yet, not in the month of May.  It goes without saying that we shouldn’t be scouting out spots on I-480 as it passes over Valley View every time the Bullpen Mafia yields a baserunner.  Never too high and never too low, it is far too early for hope or pessimism.

What is difficult is avoiding the writing on the wall.  The first elephant in the room is Ubaldo Jimenez, an enigma of worst kind, he’s the type you have to depend on if you want to go anywhere and that tends to make you sick.  The season hasn’t been a complete train wreck for the Indians #2 starter, but it’s more of the inconsistency that we might be getting used to, especially if this is what we’re getting from this guy in a “walk year”.  The good news is that he seems to leaning in the direction of more 6 or 7-inning, 100 pitch outings; the bad news is that there’s always a looming possibility of Jimenez regressing without notice.

Brett Myers wasn’t anything particularly impressive either, posting an 0-3 record in four starts, getting fatigued early every time out.  When he was penciled in as the #3 guy in the rotation, I worried how the Indians would survive his starts; the truth is that they did not.  He wasn’t eating up innings, throwing strikes, or getting the outs that one needs to succeed when he’s pitching to contact.  It would have been great to see Myers surprise everyone, but what you saw is what you smelled, and it stunk.

KazmirWhile that may be enough to figure that the Indians won’t be interfering with our late-October plans, there is some balance in the universe and it even exists with Terry Francona’s pitching staff.  Scott Kazmir has an interesting back-story, he was supposed to be David Price before David Price was David Price, but a free-agent deal with the Angels went south, so far south the undersized, but not crafty lefty, ended up in the Independent League with the Sugarland Skeeters for a season.  Off the scrap-heap, the Tribe is 4-3 Kazmir pitches.  Some performances merit a standing O, while others make you wonder if the southpaw should have stayed in rural Texas, independent of any MLB club.

The fact that Justin Masterson is doing something this year that resembles the work of a real-life Ace eases the pain from the rest.  You look forward to Masterson getting the ball, mostly because you don’t know what to expect when it’s anyone else out there.  Mickey Callaway has done a good job in his first season as the pitching coach, and we should maybe credit him with unexpected success from Zach McAllister, Corey Kluber, and even the spot starts from Trevor Bauer.  Bauer isn’t ready yet, but we’ve been able to enjoy the potential that’s obviously there with him, even if we aren’t enjoying the walks.  It might be easier to take a couple losses that serve as valuable lessons to the #2 prospect in the Tribe’s system, but because of the unknown ahead, we don’t know what the impact of 1 loss is going to be after 162 contests.

If you are without one of your bullpen arms for a couple of weeks at a time, here and there, the rest of the staff should pick up the slack.  For the second time since Spring Training began, the Indians are without their closer, due to a non-serious injury.  When the news broke of Chris Perez missing the majority of the exhibition season, Justin Masterson talked about even the healthy closers aren’t pitching every day, but depth was hardly a concern.  Somewhere along the way, the invincibility that we’ve come to expect from Vinnie Pestano and Perez has been compromised.  Neither is perfect and both have had arm troubles this season.

Pestano has simply looked human since coming back from injury, something Jim Rosenhaus and Hamilton haven’t been shy about in the last week or so on the WTAM broadcasts in a rough week for the Cleveland relievers.  Pestano blew a save against Seattle, as did Perez in fact, but the bats bailed them out in both cases and the Indians won an extra-inning affair.  A few days later, the Tribe setup man had a miserable appearance at Fenway that saw the Red Sox break a once-close game wide open, thanks in large part to four runs on four hits and two free passes issued by Pestano in a 7-4 loss.  Any (ridiculous) rally for Pestano to be demoted is cut short when news of a Chris Perez DL-stint is announced and Vinnie Pestano assumes 9th inning duties by default.

His team kept the pressure off of him, for the most part, by avoiding any Save situations of late, but fear trembled through our hearts at what appeared to be the inevitable end of a losing streak, because you never can tell.  Expect the worst, it’s the place we go to so quickly as Cleveland fans, and what we should have seen as a meaningless, stat-padding home run from Xavier Paul on Wedensday night, had this level-headed fan expecting to see a team with a 5-2 lead not register another out with the bases empty.

FansThat’s too low, more than just seeing the glass as half empty, but doubting the existence of the glass in the first place.  And it’s funny; you don’t see this pessimism with the Indians bats.  While this offense has been shut down by some good pitching, you start expecting things in the late innings, and they aren’t letting us down.  The clutch hits are coming; walk-offs are coming in the volume you’d hope they would, but you get so down when the shoe is on the other foot.  You see this strength, this Indians allegedly solid bullpen, instills nothing resembling confidence, a scary thing.

The bar is set too high, but it’s hard for a crazy fan to see it, unless they can find a crazier fan to demonstrate just how much crazy is too crazy.  Fans that write things to pitchers that lead to those pitchers 86’ing their Twitter accounts is more than a bit too much crazy, but that’s the hand Chris Perez was dealt.  Such is life, but it does serve as a wake-up call that we aren’t dealing with this team, on that we watch play a game, with the proper perspective, even if we stop well short of crazy.

Honestly, I am watching these slumps and these hot streaks, and I’m thinking that they equal an 83-79 club.  It’s good enough to make you believe that you didn’t waste your summer watching a go-nowhere baseball team, but it’s still residing in a zip code far away from the World Series.  Anything less than thoughts about a title represent the stigma that our fans are beginning to take on, through no fault of their own, the perception is that we are settling.  I’m not prepared to settle for anything, but I’m not setting myself up for disappointment, nor am I prepared to embrace anything of the sort.

I’m never too high and never too low, there’s a long way to go before #162 is in the books.  Stay healthy, Tribe fans.

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