Indians Front Office and Clubhouse Spinning Two Different Messages

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

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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Everyone wants to hold Antonnetti and Shapiro accountable but no one ever says just what they want the front office to do. The biggest problem the fans have and some of the media is the refusal to realize that no team has the kind of offense that they want. Every team is looking for offense and no team is going to give up any decent offensive player. If there isn’t anyone out there worth getting it doesn’t matter how much money the Dolans have to spend. Every night other teams are winning games 1-0 or 2-1. It is the starting pitching that is the trouble especially in giving up runs early. Until the fans realize that offense like in the 90’s is never coming back there will be a lot of this stupid whining here in Cleveland.

  2. The off season before Francona was hired, I was so fed up with the Indians, I YouTube my season ticket invoice shredding! Posted it with a comment that after having season ticket since ’89, I was through. Then Francona was hired, FA signed and I bought the juice again.

    Now I am dusting off the shredder, since I cannot see any improvement going forward. They waited too long on Lindor; too much time given to Santana; have done nothing to support some of the best pitching this team has had in years, and now my invoice will be coming soon. Sorry to say, but I’m 40/60 in favor of renewal. Any game day this year I could have purchased as good if not better seats then mine which by the way are fantastic. Only difference, I keep my money till I want to spend it.

  3. The beat goes on. After the 1959 season, the Indians suffered through a series of seasons where they either had good pitching and poor hitting or good hitting and poor pitching. It wasn’t until the middle of the ’90’s that we were able to enjoy a period of time when we had both good pitching and good hitting, plus a number of defensive standouts. As my brother says, “You don’t have to be a movie producer to know when you’ve seen a bad movie”. In the same manner, fans don’t have to be professional front office people to know when a team is playing bad baseball–like the Indians are doing right now. For the longest time we’ve needed consistent right handed power in our lineup. So what did the Tribe do last off season, it obtained inconsistent left handed power in the person of Brandon Moss who reminds me more and more of Mark Reynolds, who was hot early on for us a few seasons ago but then settled in to inconsistency, just the way Moss has.
    I see too many batters taking good pitches and then striking out by either swinging at balls in the dirt or taking a called third strike. They then walk back to the bench showing no emotion, and leave the fans wondering, “this is what we’re paying millions of dollars for”. In the same manner, players who have played little league, high school, possibly college, and then minor league ball and now the majors, make foolish mistakes on the basepaths.
    The Indians need to shake up the team. While I like and admire Terry Francona, it appears that our players are too complacent and too comfortable in their positions. Maybe what we need is a manager whom the players fear more than the opposing team, although I would hesitate to seriously consider removing Terry.
    But, the main problem is the combination of players we have on the roster. Bourn has not been productive at the plate which negates any advantage he has in terms of speed. His defense has been so-so and he doesn’t have a strong arm. Swisher has had his moments; but, inconsistency and injuries have severely limited his contributions. Santana has been streaky at best and appears listless most of the time. Brantley has been hampered by back problems this year; but, still produces on a consistent basis. Chisenhall was kept as are starting thirdbase probably too long. We took much to long to bring up Lindor. Teams consistently and successfully throw left handers against us. The team looks worst when playing at home in front of the fans it needs to inspire for support and attendance.
    Our pitching appears to be the best and quickest means of obtaining the right handed power we so desperately need. We have to be willing to part with one of our starters and combine that with disposable left handed players in order to upgrade the team. We have to be willing to chance letting go of someone who will be successful for his new team. Most good trades are win-win, good for both teams and offer the players involved a new start and chance to produce up to their potential. I’d rather our front office “throw the dice” in trying to improve the team than have them be complacent and hope that all the players either improve over what they’ve always done in the past or continue to have “career years”. It’s one thing to be hopeful, it’s another to be a dreamer.

  4. The only way to hold players accountable is to sit them when they don’t produce. Who do the Indians have at the AAA level who could be brought up to sit or release Moss, Santana, Gomes, Bourn. Aviles and, yes, Kipnis who hit like crap for most of the series with the White Sox. The obvious answer is Sands, so who sits, is released or is traded among the overall group then?

    1. Thanks for the comment Jerry. I’m not sure Jerry Sands is the answer to the Indians offensive woes. He’s pretty much a 4-A guy who did have a chance early in the year. I’m all for a roster shake up. Like I said, the current formula is not working, but releasing guys is not the answer. Guys like Gomes and Kipnis are players I’d try to build around. Good teams are built with strong players–offensively and defensively–that play up the middle.

  5. Yeah, Terry Francona. There’s your hero. A guy who has been given strong roster after strong roster and had .500 or below teams every year in Cleveland except for when 18-3 months make him look like a guy who saves baseball teams and cities before he even eats breakfast.

    His strength is supposedly his clubhouse presence, but when things like this happen, you wonder if it’s worth putting up with his poor on-field decisions any longer.

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