Indians Front Office and Clubhouse Spinning Two Different Messages
Mike B. | On 27, Jul 2015
It’s a long season, but the message sure seems to have changed in just 48 hours.
Friday afternoon Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti met with the media to discuss the team and their direction as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches on July 31. Antonetti remained confident in the roster, yet disappointed in the result, and a believer in what the organization has built. Antonetti even went so far as to compare this team to the Kansas City Royals of a season ago, that got hot in late July and rode it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series.
Just 48 hours later, and three lethargic, embarrassing losses later, the Indians look like a group not even interested in watching Game 7 of the World Series, much less actually playing with the fire and through the adversity to achieve it. Never mind the fact the Indians are 45-52, while the Royals were 52-50 at the same point a year ago. The comparison in the standings, much less the style of play, are so drastically different that it seems foolish to compare the two and embarrassing for anyone—much less the team’s General Manager—to make it.
Sunday afternoon, Jason Kipnis had a much more blunt assessment of the team’s play.
“We’ve been playing like shit, there’s no way around it,” Kipnis said. “Embarrassing. No fight, giving up early. We’ve got people worrying about their own things, nobody’s held accountable. It’s just not the way we’re going to do business here.
“We held a team meeting today to reign the guys back in, get us back to where we need to be, get our heads straight, get our heads out of our butts and start playing like a better baseball team. Nobody’s trying to do bad, there’s never a case of that when you get to this level. We have good characters in here, we have good guys. Nobody’s trying to do bad, it’s just when things are going wrong, how are you going to handle it?”
Kipnis handled it a lot differently than Antonetti. When the Indians are at their worst, playing their worst baseball, the team’s All-Star stood up, addressed it and shot straight. He didn’t spin anything, look back to a previous season, a different team or site some arbitrary date that they’ve been playing well since. Kipnis sees the same thing every fan that has watched this team on a regular basis sees, a season of disappointment that has slipped away through poor defense and hitting.
While his teammates may lack fire, Kipnis shot straight with the fire this season needed months ago. When he says players are worrying about their own things, he has people in mind. He’s professional enough to not call his teammates out, but that’s not a statement that doesn’t have names attached to it in his mind.
One person who accepted responsibility was Indians manager Terry Francona. When he addressed the media, he accepted responsibility for the things Kipnis alluded to.
“I’m responsible for that,” he said. “It has not been going the way I want it to. That’ll change, or I’ll probably die trying. But, it’s going to change. It’s going to get better.”
In a season that started with a Sports Illustrated cover and lofty expectations, there’s blame to go around for everyone. The players should shoulder the majority of the blame and Francona deserves his share. How the roster has been assembled, and the use of an eight man bullpen, has left many questions and few offensive options to try to score runs.
But Antonetti and the front office—like many times in the past—seems to not own much responsibility, but instead try to spin perception to their view while carrying an attitude that they are the smartest person in the room, and if you don’t see things their way, then you’re seeing it wrong. After a fast start in 2011, Antonetti felt the team was ready to win in 2012, but the likes of Jack Hannahan, Shelley Duncan, Johnny Damon and Casey Kotchman couldn’t get it done and the team folded around crass manager Manny Acta.
After Acta was fired and the roster renovated, the 2013 Indians fought their way into the one-game Wild Card playoff, only to be shut out 4-0 to the Tampa Bay Rays. It took a 21-6 month of September and 10-game win streak to end the season to make the Wild Card. That spurred the 2014 slogan, “Unfinished Business,” followed by this season’s Sports Illustrated cover. However, in the last two seasons of lofty expectations the Indians are just 130-129.
That’s not a small sample size, it’s five years of “pre-tention” with one Wild Card game. Its a stretch that lacks the swagger and cache the front office acts like they deserve. Right down to the Indians Twitter account that has plenty of snark toward fans, they could all take a lesson of humility and reality from Kipnis. For whatever the reasons, or the statistics say, this roster isn’t working and it’s facing financial issues in the near future to go with its bland offense and porous defense. Something has to change.
Antonetti and the front office has built a solid core, and a complete renovation of the roster isn’t necessary, but this roster is more than a player away. With the trade deadline nearing and a winter ahead, bringing much of the same roster back and expecting anything but the mediocrity of the last two years would be foolish. It would be as foolish as comparing this Indians team to the 2014 Royals. Maybe it’s time to move some of the distracted players that Kipnis is referring to.
Sunday it was also announced that future renovations to Progressive Field could take place this winter and additional seats could be removed. It’s another cold reminder of the dwindled attendance and disconnect between the front office and its fanbase. Instead of spinning poor play and comparing them to the defending American League Champions, or using Twitter to ridicule fans who question lineups, beg for their for their franchise’s top prospect to be called up or pick fights with local sports radio hosts when they talk basketball in July, they should look through the same glasses as Kipnis and see the same poor play and take accountability just like Francona.
Photo: Tony Dejak/AP Photo