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Indians Indians Archive Very Early; But Not Good Enough
Written by Jeff Rich

Jeff Rich

Red Sox fan circa 2011It’s just too early, a mere four games in, to make any kind of judgment.  That should go without saying, but it’s hard to resist a snap decision on even the smallest of sample sizes.  A year ago, the Red Sox left Cleveland with an 0-6 record, and it took miraculous collapse in the end to deny them a postseason appearance.  You don’t even have to go back a full year to know that 45 games don’t dictate where the pieces lie after 162.

Sometimes, as a baseball fan, you might identify something that scares you about your team, and it’s often a truth you’d rather not know.  I can’t deny that I get frustrated when balls are booted, fundamental mistakes are made, or an umpire simply misses on fair versus foul ball call, but I don’t see any of those as long term issues.  The most damning thing to witness is a team that just isn’t good enough to compete.  Would it be a shotgun response to come back with a verdict on these 1-3 Cleveland Indians?

Of course it would; that’s the thing about baseball.  Those Indians could be playing .500 ball by Thursday morning, and even be 16-5 on the first day of May.  Of course, they won’t, but there’s something out there that’s difficult to accept.  The Indians just aren’t good enough.  I don’t have to open my eyes very widely to see that.

Ubaldo pitched wellIf anything defines this difficult portion of game we’ve seen to open the season, it’s symptoms from all four games that demonstrate the attributes of a team that simply doesn’t have whatever “it” is.  I really love the fact that the starting pitching has been Outstanding and I believed that I could keep things upbeat, in consideration of how Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Derek Lowe have exceeded expectations.  However, the bullpen has wasted their efforts, so the team has to lean on its offense to produce, and there’s just nothing inspiring about the Tribe at the plate.

Like I said, I get upset with the defense when it screws the guy on the bump.  I’m not singling out Asdrubal’s unsure hands on a potential game-ending double play or Jack Hannahan’s double play botching mishap; those two have both had timely hits, and I have to admit that the bar is pretty low if that impresses anyone in any way.  It’s less about pointing fingers, and more about feeling bad for the pitching staff that gets no favors from their defense.  I’m not so sure that anyone is concerned about an infield of Kotchman, Kipnis, Cabrera, and Hannahan not getting it together pretty quickly.

I am ready to talk about the pink elephant in the room because I am not so sure that this offense is capable of sharpening its pencil.  First of all, this conversation does not necessarily include Carlos Santana, who looks locked in at the plate.  He’s a tremendous athlete, and its my opinion that his talent will supersede any of the difficulties he’s had in development.  The man can absolutely rake, and there’s word that the wheels are in motion towards making him part of the future in Cleveland.  Unfortunately, Santana doesn’t have the type of approach at the plate that should make him a team leader in batting average, which he does at a .250 clip.

Santana looks readyHe shares the top spot with Jack Hannahan, but no other regular is hitting better than .200, and that is completely unacceptable.  It’s unacceptable for a team that is expected to compete; even if it is only their own fans that have that expectation.  I am probably part of that foolishly optimistic group, but I see too well to deny that the glass really isn’t half full this time around. 

Sure, Travis Hafner could revert back to the player he was seven years ago.  Maybe Grady Sizemore will rebound from injury stronger than ever and make Indians fans forget that they were in the running for Yoenis Cespedes.  Perhaps, Matt LaPorta could be more than the dreaded Quadruple-A slugger that we’ve accepted him as.  Unfortunately, there’s a better chance, a much better chance that the starting pitching can keep up their magic act than some type of divine intervention from players we saw in a more positive light in 2007.

How quickly we’ve run out of excuses!  We are just four games in.  On Monday, they couldn’t hit Chris Sale (who was lights out), the day before it was Toronto’s bullpen, and before that, it was Brandon Morrow.  Right now, I look to the 158 games ahead and I wonder, is there ever going to be a day where Manny Acta’s lineup is going to be better than the opposing pitcher on paper?  Sure, the games aren’t played on paper, but the better team wins more baseball games, and usually only loses when they foul up more than their inferior opponent.  The Indians have shown nothing to lead me to believe they can put together more mistake-free games than anyone, let alone the American League contenders.

Sale shutting down the TribeThey have 158 games to prove me wrong, and it’s that very thought that eases the pain.  Over the next 158 games, how much can anyone really worry about a 1-3 start?  That’s assuming that 1-3 isn’t a slippery slope towards 2-14 or 16-43, but even then, how much do a measly four games actually impact an entire season?

If you need a story more inspiring than a Boston team that bookended their season with stink on both sides, look no further than the team that reaped all the benefits of their demise, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.  Sure, they needed a lot of help from the Red Sox to stay alive, but after 162 contests, they were among the last eight standing.  The Rangers quickly ended their run in the season after the season, which some refer to as the post-season, but something tells me a taste would benefit the Indians.

Most people in Cleveland could probably tell you what the post season is, but it’s about time that they get to see it up close again.  For that to happen at the corner of the Ontario and Carnegie, things need to get fixed, and the final 158 games must be played much better than the first four.  There need to be a lot more days where they’re good enough to win than the days when they are not good enough.

But…I’m not judging anything just yet.

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