As is the case with so many instances in my life, the news last week of Francisco Lindor’s injury reminded me of a moment of the Simpsons.
This one, to be precise:
So, it’s fair to say I went counter to the Indians’ tweeted hopes that everyone will handle the news with calmly and rationally.
It’s very easy to say that Lindor should be back if not in time for the start of the season, than after only a few weeks. But it’s also easy to be suspicious of the optimistic timetable, given that we’ve seen it before for players like Michael Brantley, Andrew Miller and Jason Kipnis.
Of course (and I feel like I speak for Indians fans everywhere) we don’t want Lindor to hurry his way back at the expense of his long-term health. But what if he has to?
The cupboard is slightly bare in the Indians lineup. We’re at a point where Kipnis was suggested as a potential outfielder last fall because there was a shortage there and the infield lined up nicely with Jose Ramirez at second, Lindor at shortstop and Josh Donaldson at third base. But now, with Donaldson gone to Atlanta (for far more, in my opinion , than it would have been wise for the Indians to pay him) and Lindor potentially injured for at least the first week of the regular season, the Indians will need Ramirez and Kipnis in the infield – and then some more. I’m still not sold on the outfield as it’s currently constructed.
The pie-in-the-sky plan is to offer Manny Machado, who as of this writing, is STILL on the market, a one-year deal and tell Frankie to take all the time he needs and then some. But that probably won’t happen. (The only reason I haven’t gone into full-on panic mode about the Indians not making any big additions to the team is that even now, with pitchers and catchers reporting, NOBODY seems to have made any big moves. Of course, that brings its own suspicions, but that’s another story for another time.)
And there’s a part of me confronting the doomsday scenario. Let’s suppose that this team as it’s currently constructed, with no real additions, is the opening day lineup. The Indians are supposed to win the division, and do so rather easily. But what if a Lindor-less Tribe team loses just enough that they’re looking up in the division standings?
Indians President Chris Antonetti said the Indians aren’t rebuilding now, and would look at adding pieces at the trade deadline if they were in a position to do so. But if they’re not leading or close to the division lead, it could be like 2008 all over again.
In 2007, the Indians won their first division title in six years, dispatched the Yankees in the division series, and then took a three games to one lead over the Red Sox before dropping the next three and losing the series (the Red Sox then went on to beat the Rockies in the World Series for Terry Francona’s second title – and last one to date). The following year, they stumbled out of the gate, and defending Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia was gone at the deadline. A year later, defending Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee was dealt, as was Victor Martinez.
The farm system is nowhere near as well-stocked as it was even three years ago. If the Indians find themselves teetering on the brink of irrelevance in July, they could go into rebuild mode – a bitter pill to swallow, made no more palatable by the dawning realization that 2016 could have been the Indians’ best chance in a decade to win it all.
Of course, I could just need my meds adjusted. And if I was any good at prognostication, I’d be at a sports book somewhere.
Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images