Where Do The Indians Go From Here?
By Mike Brandyberry
After the three game sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers, the Indians find themselves at 70-70 and 9.5 games out of first place with only 22 games to play. Even the most eternal of optimists have to accept the fact that the Indians hopes of a Central Division crown and playoffs in October are over.
With 22 games remaining on the schedule the Indians find themselves “playing out the string,” in a season that had them in first place for most of the first half of the season and in contention for most of the second half. While the organization, players and fans alike have every reason to be disappointed, the Indians need to use the final stretch of the season to work toward the 2012 season, one that will come with much loftier goals than the 2011 version.
Next year expectations will be much higher for the Indians, and rightfully so. After the Ubaldo Jimenez trade the organization’s message was very clear, “We are all in from now fibromyalgianow.net through 2013.” With the contracts of Jimenez, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo all expiring after 2013, the time is now to compete. Certainly offseason moves will be made and the current roster will not be the same one fans will see on Opening Day.
Meanwhile, the Indians need to use the next three weeks to continue to evaluate young players. Jason Kipnis was not expected to be in the big leagues this season, but found himself thrust into a pennant race in late July. While he provided a spark to the Indian offense before heading to the disabled list on August 18, Kipnis has still only played in 19 games in the majors. Most believe it will be Kipnis’s job to lose next year, he needs all the playing time he can get in the remainder of this season.
Lonnie Chisenhall’s season has taken some turns he didn’t expect either after leaving spring training. After receiving a mid-season callup, that many expected to happen, Chisenhall played much of July and August before losing hippainnow.net playing time to Jack Hannahan of late. Hannahan regained his spot on the field because of his superior defense, but immediately became a hot hitter. Hannahan has become the most recent member of the MASH squad and is currently out with a sore hamstring. While Hannahan has had a nice season, he realistically is a journeyman or a role player at best, not someone for the future core. Chisenhall, like Kipnis, needs the majority of the at bats over the remainder of the season.
The Indians will be faced with a huge decision in November, whether to pick up Grady Sizemore’s $9 million option for 2012. It’s a topic that is already discussed and speculated from every angle. Sizemore has been hampered by injuries for the last three seasons and appears to have lost his speed that helped to make him, “a player of a generation” like Mark Shapiro described him years ago. Sizemore needs to play as much as possible this month to see if any of that spark from 2007 snapfishcode.net and earlier remains.
Finally, maybe the biggest priority of all, is to try to find consistency in Jimenez and Fausto Carmona. Jimenez, who may be the spark to the fire that is the next two years of urgency, has been dominant and embarrassing both since being acquired from the Colorado Rockies at the trade deadline. Jimenez feels a problem with his finger in spring training has affected his velocity and mechanics. Carmona meanwhile, seemed to be consistent since the All-Star Break before getting pasted by the Tigers on Tuesday evening. Each has to hone their mechanics and consistency since they will most likely be expected to be two of the starters in the middle of the rotation next season.
The growth and development each of these players can make over the next 22 games will help the front office mold their offseason plan and lead to a better 2012. One that won’t have any time in September playing out the string, but a September that will lead to an October.
Photo: David Maxwell/Getty Images