They say it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
For the past three seasons, the Cleveland Indians have finished just fine. From May to September, they have been one of baseball’s best teams. They have been the team that makes people say, “Nobody would want to play them in October”. Yet, the team has only one Wild Card Game loss to show for it.
And it’s that pesky “start” that’s the problem.
Since Manager Terry Francona was hired prior to the 2013 season, the Indians have shot themselves in the foot right out of the gate three out of three times. It took a miraculous run in 2013 with a ten game winning streak to finish the season just for the Indians to squeak out one game of “playoff baseball” (the quotes are for you, Kenny Lofton). Over the past two years, however, there has been no ten game winning streak and the Indians April swoon has proved too much to overcome.
Well, that didn’t go as planned.
When the Cleveland Indians left Goodyear, Ariz., at the end of March, expectations were high. The team was coming off an 80-82 season in 2011 that could have been much better had injuries in the second half of the season not taken their toll. Now, with a healthy team in place and a young group of players with a season of contention under their belts, 2012 was supposed to be a season to compete for the playoffs.
Six months later, those predictions of playoff baseball all seem foolish now.
After a good start, the Indians found themselves 37-33 after 70 games and a half game in first place. The plan seemed to be working.
But 71 games later, the plan had been exposed, the wheels had fallen off the tracks and the Indians were in last place. It’s one of the fastest falls from the top spot to the bottom in baseball history. At 68-94, the Indians narrowly missed being only the third team in baseball history to finish in last place after leading the division at the 70-game mark.
Chris Antonetti’s plan to resign Grady Sizemore, sign Casey Kotchman and entrust left field, third base and first base to a collection of veteran journeymen or stars past their prime didn’t work. The offense faltered, most notably against left-handed pitching. The team hit .235 against southpaws for the season and was only 18-36 when a lefty started against them.
“I can tell you I’m accountable for those decisions,” Antonetti said last Thursday. “Certainly many of the decisions we made haven’t worked out as well as we hoped.”
By Bob Toth
Thursday brought to Cleveland the end of the Manny Acta era.
The fact that Acta was fired was not a surprise.
That he was fired with six games left in the season, with the Indians playing arguably their best baseball in months, was.
What possible benefit could firing Acta with a week to go in the season provide?
By Craig Gifford
Instead of, “what if?,” perhaps the question around the Cleveland Indians organization today should be, why now? Why did the Indians pick Thursday to dismiss manager Manny Acta of his managerial duties? The timing of the move seems odd. The move, itself, was expected.
The Indians, at 65-91, have fallen well short of preseason expectations that had them as possible playoff contender or a .500 team, at worst. For the second straight season, the Tribe has suffered through a second-half swoon undoing a promising first half to a season.
A news conference has been announced for 4:15 p.m. today.
Alomar, who had a 10-year playing career with the Indians and was named to the team’s hall of fame in 2009, has served as a coach for the team since 2010. The team said the coaching staff will remain intact for the last six games of the season, and Alomar will be considered for manager.
“The Cleveland Indians would like to thank Manny Acta for everything he has done for the organization in his three seasons as our Manager,” said Cleveland Indians Executive Vice President and General Manager Chris Antonetti in a statement. “Manny’s passion for the game, positive attitude and tremendous knowledge of baseball helped guide us to a number of high points during his tenure. Managerial changes are never easy or taken lightly, but as we approached the end of the season and turned our attention to assessing the year, we determined a change was necessary.”
By Mike Brandyberry
On June 23, the Indians lost to the Houston Astros, 8-1 and Jeanmar Gomez made his last start before heading back Triple-A Columbus. After 70 games, the Tribe held a 37-33 record and lead the American League Central Division by half a game.
It took them one extra game, but 71 games later the Tribe officially hit the cellar last night, losing to the Minnesota Twins, 7-2. The loss tied the Indians with the Twins for the worst record in the American League and the bottom spot in the division.
Today, the Indians don’t just wake up in last place. They wake up in last place with a chance to be only the third team to be in first place after 70 games and finish in last place. They also wake a stagnant team with no life and according to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports, the front office is “livid” with the comments of Chris Perez, while scouts around the league believe Manny Acta is resigned to losing.
By Craig Gifford
With the Indians mired in one of their worst stretches of baseball in recent memory, a lot of fingers are being pointed. That is to be expected when a team loses 21 of 25 games, including two losing streaks of eight or more in the span of a month.
The reality is, everyone involved with the club deserves to have at least one finger pointed in their direction. The pitchers are not getting outs. The hitters are not scoring runs. You can continue up the food chain with coaching, front office and ownership all being able to take some blame in Cleveland’s swoon.
The easiest place to lay blame, however, is with coaching. People look at the team and its funk and come right to the conclusion that manager Manny Acta is at fault for this mess. There are certainly situations where even he would probably admit things could have been done differently, something more could have been said or an in-game move could have been made. However, he does not really deserve to be the fall guy.
By Mike Brandyberry
When the Indians lose 21 of 25 games and fall from 3.5 games to 14.5 in back of first place in less than a month, it’s easy to hit the wall with writer’s block. And, despite our analytics that say we have great readership, we don’t receive many comments, so I decided to use my last day of summer vacation to interact with our tweeps. Our twitter following and interaction has been great since our birth last summer.
Every writer knows, the easiest way to produce a story is just churn out a fan mailbag, so now I’m just like everyone else; a little lazy and fatigued with this season. I’ve thought of doing this for a while as we want to interact with our readers more (that’s one of the points of a blog).
So, without further ado, here is the first DTTWLN mailbag. If questions remain this good, I’ll try to do this about once a month. On to the questions…
Question from @dhall95: When will we see the last of Chris Antonetti and Mark Shapiro? That’s the only hope of turning this franchise around.
Unfortunately, I don’t think fans will like my answer, but I don’t think either are going anywhere in the immediate future. Shapiro has been a part of the organization since 1991 and worked with Hank Peters and John Hart. He’s really the last link to the success the Indians had in the 1990s. Granted, he is no John Hart, but he was hand-picked by Hart to replace him. I definitely believe that Shapiro has involvement in the baseball operations aspect, but I also know the majority of his time is dedicated issues off the field.
By Christian Petrila
I was low on ideas for my weekly column, when ESPN’s Jim Bowden tweeted that Manny Acta said the Indians need three bats and a starter to compete with Detroit and Chicago.
Needless to say, this made the topic for my column infinitely easier.
What can we interpret from Acta’s quote? Is it his frustration seeping through? Is he hinting at the Indians’ brass that they need to spend money or the team will continue to stumble around aimlessly?
By Bob Toth
When a team struggles as badly as the Cleveland Indians have over the last several seasons, someone generally takes the fall. Fans of the Indians have desperately sought someone to blame for the quick collapse of this year’s Tribe, and fingers have pointed in several different directions all at once. Indians’ owner Larry Dolan, team President Mark Shapiro, and General Manager Chris Antonetti have all been blamed for their roles in slamming the window shut on the 2012 season.
Some have even considered Manny Acta and his managerial position and have questioned his ability to lead the Indians. Is he to blame for the woes of a fan base watching another promising team fail like so many before them?
The 43-year-old Acta joined the Indians on October 25, 2009 on a three-year contract, with a club option for 2013. Under his guidance, the young 2010 Indians improved on their 2009 record by just four games. They finished in fourth place in the American League Central, although the team posted a second half record of 35-39, giving them hope moving into the 2011 season. The roster ending the season was the youngest in the major leagues.
By Kevin Schneider
Almost half way through the season and hovering just above .500, the Indians can’t afford to continue trying to catch the White Sox with a punch-less lineup and imploding bullpen.
At 38-38 before Saturday’s game, the Indians called up Jason Donald after third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall fractured his arm during Friday’s game. The Tribe is expected to activate Travis Hafner from the disabled list today. But that’s not enough.
By Matthew Van Wormer
Just over a month ago, we brought you the story of RJ Breisacher, an Army Sergeant who had finished his time in the military and was now going to live the dream of many baseball fans; he was getting in a car, driving around the country and stopping at every baseball stadium or ballpark the country had to offer. We at Did The Tribe Win Last Night wanted to make RJ’s trip to Cleveland as memorable as possible and I think we were able to give him a day that he won’t soon forget.
RJ’s day in Cleveland started at Melt Bar and Grilled in Lakewood. I had contacted Matt Fish, owner of Melt, a few weeks back to see if he would accommodate us and do something special for RJ. He agreed to take care of lunch for RJ and give him a taste of the best sandwich Cleveland had to offer. We sat down to eat, ordered our food (RJ got the Parmageddon, a Melt staple) and started talking about RJ’s trip so far. Cleveland is only his fourth stop so we talked in great detail about his favorite things at each of the three parks he had already been too; Comerica Park (Detroit), Great American Ballpark (Cincinnati) and PNC Park (Pittsburgh). None of them did what we had planned for RJ once we reached downtown.