The full quote from veteran baseball columnist Paul Hoynes in yesterday’s Cleveland Plain Dealer was:
“There is no life in their eyes, arms, gloves or bats. There is only defeat, loads and loads of defeat.”
Ernest Hemingway couldn’t have written more aptly.
The Cleveland Indians host the Minnesota Twins tonight and, despite what I’ve written in the past about attendance, I could understand if Jacobs Field is mostly empty. Heck, even I wouldn’t pay money to watch the garbage the Tribe has displayed on the field the past nine games.
Flashback to the morning of July 27:
The Indians arise in Minnesota to play the then-last place Twins. Cleveland is coming off a remarkable comeback win against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers before 35,000 fans — one of the largest home crowds of the season. Just three and a half games out of first, it’s the high point of the season in many ways, as the Tribe sees their next six contests versus the bottom dwellers of the central.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis called the previous night “our best win of the season,” and he was likely correct. MLB.com’s recap called the game “a turning point in the season.” Indeed it was — just the wrong way.
Remember, baseball is the best sport because it’s the most unpredictable.
The Indians were massacred in Minnesota, dropping all three to the Twins (a horrific 40-58 at the time) by a combined 28-6 score.
The Tribe the proceeded to Kansas City, where the Royals (a paltry 41-60 at the time) were returning from an exhausting 1-6 west coast trip, including a sweep at the hands of last place Seattle. The lowly Royals demolished Cleveland in the opener, then won the next two games for an improbable sweep, outscoring the stunned Tribe 20-12 over three evenings. (This is why you never bet on baseball.)
In 2011, Cleveland’s surprising season effectively ended when they were swept by Detroit in late August. The 2012 campaign was over after the Kansas City series, but the Tigers put on the finishing touches the past 60 hours, culminating with the Indians improbably pulling defeat from the jaws of victory late Sunday afternoon.
In a marathon game, Cleveland worked their way to extra innings with solid relief pitching and defense; scored three in the 10th; only to allow five to the Motor City Kitties in the bottom half — all after two were out — ending the torture on a walk-off blast by the AL’s best hitter.
The Tribe started the series with their top two starters in position to break the rough streak. Instead, Justin Masterson (7-10, 4.78) gave up seven runs on 10 hits in four innings during Friday’s 10-2 loss. Ubaldo Jimenez (8-11, 5.29) added to the fire Saturday by allowing six runs on seven hits in five innings.
Indians’ starters were a combined 0-7 with an appalling 11.69 ERA on the trip.
In the final game of this nightmare, Cleveland threw a left-hander for the first time all season, when Chris Seddon made his first big league start since 2007. Like more than half of the Tribe starters on this slog around the Midwest, he failed to complete five innings.
The Tribe went winless on a trip of nine or more games for the first time in 112 years of baseball in C-town. And despite the valiant effort yesterday, there are no moral “victories.”
They were outscored 74-28 on the trip and now sit nine and half games out of first and eight back in the Wild Card, with eight teams ahead of them.
Another relevant flashback, this time to 2007:
Out of nowhere, the Indians won a remarkable 97 games, dispatched the hated Yankees in the ALDS, and were one victory over Boston from heading to a very-winnable World Series and a chance for the city’s first baseball championship in six decades.
They fell apart, but good times seemed on the horizon, so much so that long-time columnist Terry Pluto was inspired to pen a book about how GM Mark Shapiro rebuilt the team to be as strong as the great clubs of 1994-2001.
Not to be. The team has not had a winning season since.
And with absurd trades like dumping top pitching prospects and a stud hitter for Ubaldo Jimenez 53 weeks ago – we all said it was awful from day one, as did Keith Law — bad times suddenly appear in the distance. Jimenez has been simply atrocious in Cleveland: 12-15 with a 5.22 ERA in 33 starts.
The hyper-educated and mercurial Shapiro, who’s been with the organization since he graduated from college, and GM the past 12 seasons, gets the majority of blame — surely more than Manager Manny Acta, who really has not been given much with which to work. (One example: Grady Sizemore’s played 104 total games in Acta’s three seasons as skipper.)
Shapiro is not a tenured public school teacher with perpetual job security. Results matter in the real world, and actions should be considered.
So, while this insanely detailed and intriguing analysis of the Tribe’s next few years by blogger Paul Cousineau shows rays of hope, the rapid descent of the past 11 days has been meteoric.
With the team, front office, and ownership staring at a fanbase that’s still last in attendance despite cheap tickets, great promotions, and a stellar ballpark, it’s maddening to consider the Indians were somehow in first place much of 2011 and 2012, then just a few games back in the AL Central after the “Verlander Game” — before the bottom fell out.
It was the most putrid week and a half on the field in my 26 years as an Indians fan, and probably the worst week off the field since Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee departed town three summers ago.