By Mike Brandyberry
Consider this week the slight breeze before the gale force trade winds begin to swirl a month from now in Nashville, Tennessee. This week all 30 general managers met in Indian Wells, California and free agent signings and trade speculation all began to surface.
While few transactions and roster moves were completed, all 30 organizations will reconvene in Nashville on December 3-6. In the meantime much of the conversation started this week will continue, with some of it resulting in movement in Nashville. In the case of the Indians, 94 losses and a roster with numerous issues will make you the center of conversations quickly. If only a fraction of the rumors come to fruition, it should be a winter full of decisions for the Tribe.
In terms of the Indians, the rumors are swirling from all directions. The first, and easiest to execute, is the Tribe’s interest in free agent Kevin Youkilis. Cleveland tried to trade for Youkilis in June when he was struggling with the Boston Red Sox and rookie Will Middlebrooks was taking their third base job. The Tribe lost out on Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox, but they decided not to exercise his $13 million option for 2013, making him a free agent. He hit .235, with 19 home runs and 60 runs batted in between Boston and Chicago this season.
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 Evan Matsumoto
There was no dog pile on the infield; there was no champagne flowing in the clubhouse. After Wednesday night’s game against the White Sox, fans quietly filed out and the lights went dark on another season in Cleveland.
And as they say in Cleveland, there’s always next year.
Cleveland sent David Huff to start the game against Chicago’s Gavin Floyd and ended up on the losing end of a five-homerun, 9-0 game. Huff started on the mound for the Tribe. Heading into the night’s game, he was 3-0 in six appearances, boasting a 2.86 ERA.
Chicago’s Dan Johnson kicked off the scoring in the second inning with a two-run shot to the centerfield seats to give the Sox an early 2-0 lead.
By David Roberts
Heading into the last series of the season the Cleveland Indians are looking at rounding out another season without a chance of October baseball but on the flipside, they have a chance to dash the hopes of another playoff hopeful, the Chicago White Sox.
With the White Sox standing three games out of first this three game series against the Tribe is a must-win. On this Monday night affair Indians manager, Sandy Alomar Jr. sent Corey Kluber against Hector Santiago. Unfortunately, White Sox pitching flummoxed the Tribe bats and the White Sox hitters finally awoke from their slumber in an 11-0 romping at Progressive Field.
Kluber and Santiago traded zeroes through the first five innings. Six men reached base for the two clubs through the first three innings with the biggest threat coming in the top of the second when Chicago had two men on base with no outs but were unable to get anyone home.
By Mike Brandyberry
It didn’t have first place, or playoff implications, but Saturday’s game would be one for the Indians’ yearbook. Unfortunately, after battling back from Jeanmar Gomez’s six runs allowed over three innings, the Tribe offense left 20 men on base in their 7-6 loss in 14 innings to the Royals. The Indian bullpen pitched 10 scoreless innings after Gomez left the contest before Scott Maine allowed the game winner in the 14th.
After 14 innings, using nine pitchers and 14 position players and playing until 1 am in the morning, fans can expect a unique lineup today in the series finale. The Indians will be fighting for their second straight series win and Interim Manager Sandy Alomar’s second career managerial win.
By Bob Toth
It may have taken extra innings, but Kansas City was able to hand Cleveland their first loss in the Sandy Alomar era, a 7-6 final, after the Indians loaded the bases with nobody out in the 14th frame and could not drive the tying or winning runs home.
After narrowly escaping a first inning threat by the Royals, the Indians struck for a run in the bottom half of the inning. Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana drew one-out walks off of Royals’ starter Jake Odorizzi. Lonnie Chisenhall drove Kipnis in from second with a hard-hit double to right field to give the Tribe an early 1-0 advantage.
By Craig Gifford
Apparently the Cleveland Indians did not like being in the cellar all by themselves.
On Wednesday, the Tribe fell to the visiting Minnesota Twins. It dropped Cleveland to last place alone in the AL Central Division for the first time all year. Thursday, the Indians dragged the Twins back down with them on the strength of a 4-3 victory at Progressive Field. It took 10 innings, but Cleveland just was not going to let Minnesota leave town without a share of the division’s bottom floor. Both clubs now stand at 62-88, each needing one more win to steer clear of that dreaded 100-loss campaign.
By Bob Toth
Significant contributions from two September callups, designated hitter Russ Canzler and pitcher David Huff, helped Cleveland overcome an early four-run deficit to claim game one from the Minnesota Twins by a final of 7-6.
The Twins struck for first blood in the bottom of the second against Indians’ starting pitcher, Jeanmar Gomez. Back-to-back walks to the dangerous Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau gave the Twins free base runners. A fielder’s choice groundout by Ryan Doumit forced Morneau at second, but moved Willingham to third. Chris Parmelee lifted the first pitch of his at bat into medium left field, deep enough to drive Willingham home from third on the sacrifice fly for the game’s first run.
Minnesota tacked on more the very next inning. Pedro Florimon singled to center with the first pitch of the inning. Ben Revere followed with a single to left center. A sacrifice bunt by Eduardo Escobar moved both runners up. Joe Mauer was intentionally walked to create a double play situation, but Willingham sent a 2-2 pitch the opposite way into the right field corner to score Florimon and Revere, making it a 3-0 game.
By Mike Brandyberry
The Indians are undefeated in September.
It’s cliché and corny, but when you go 5-24 in the month of August, a hard fought 4-3 victory over the Texas Rangers on Saturday night seems like a monumental achievement. Maybe it’s a turning of the page on the calendar that turns the stink of August away.
Jeanmar Gomez looked like the pitcher that left spring training with the Indians, not the confused right-hander that was optioned to Triple-A Columbus at the end of June. Gomez pitched into the sixth inning before giving way to a short-handed bullpen. Cleveland mustered enough offense in the first inning to earn the win.
By Steve Eby
The sky is blue. Water is wet. The Indians lost a baseball game. All is normal in Cleveland.
With the 5-3 loss to the Texas Rangers, the Indians finished August on a six game losing streak, losers of 15 out of their last 16, and a 5-24 record for the month. To make matters worse, they also lost five of their last six in the month of July. It is safe to say that the Tribe is welcoming the month of September with open arms.
Friday night, the Indians put their hopes in the hands of their inconsistent starter, Ubaldo Jimenez. The Rangers countered with Ryan Dempster, their big July acquisition. The two starters were in complete contrast of each other, as Dempster dominated and Jimenez struggled to his 14th loss of the year.
By Craig Gifford
The Indians offense, little more than a rumor most of the season’s second half, proved to be a reality Thursday afternoon.
Unfortunately, for Cleveland, the pitching remained a mystery as the Oakland Athletics pounded Tribe hurlers for a 12-7 victory at Progressive Field. The A’s completed a four-game sweep, sending the bottoming-out Indians to their fifth straight loss, fourteenth defeat in 15 contests and 27th loss in the last 32 affairs.
“We had a lot better at bats today,” said Indians Manager Manny Acta. “We haven’t been very good at putting shut down innings up. We had innings where we scored and gave the runs right back. The bullpen scuffled a little bit.”
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.