A funny thing happened to me over Labor Day Weekend 2012. Amid all of the diet ignoring, adult beverage enjoying, and other miscellaneous holiday weekend cavorting, I got a direct message from a Twitter follower of mine about an email from his dad to a local Cleveland baseball writer.
By no means am I famous, but I get lots of messages and/or emails about what’s going on in sports from friends or readers. Sometimes I get called names, sometimes folks agree with me, but rarely do I ever get an email forwarded to me that actually affected my mood. In one word I went from (mostly) objective observer mode to depressed Indians fan mode. And I’m not sure if I’ll be able to go back easily. At least not this season.
You’ll understand after I explain.
It all started when Larry (@larrynb1970) messaged me about an email exchange that his dad (who does not have a twitter account and will henceforth be known as Twitterless Dad) (OKAY FINE. Twitterless Dad’s name is Loren. Sue me for trying to sound hip) had with a long time, respected Cleveland sports writer. I’m going to leave the sports writer anonymous. He was polite and professional in each instance that I saw him interact with Loren, but he also was communicating under the assumption he was only talking to one person. This isn’t about any Cleveland writer, anyway. It’s about a lifelong Tribe fan who feels helpless and hopeless, and is smart enough to know why.
I wrote to you recently regarding the Cleveland Indians as I am a long time fan who would like to see the team restored to some semblance of respectability and I have doubts that it can occur without a major shake up. The forms of change would be listed as follows:1. The Dolans sell the franchise2. If that doesn’t happen, change the total management team to include the front office and manager
First Round Draft Picks: Will Hartley, Corey Smith, Dan Denham, Jeremy Sowers, Trevor Crowe, David Huff and Beau Mills were complete misses.Free Agent Signings that were misses: Travis Hafner (contract was too long and was signed to someone who was struggling at the time and was most likely nicked up at that time), Grady Sizemore (how many injuries and surgeries occurred prior to this signing), Matt Lawton (4 years to a journeyman outfielder), Kerry Wood (how many surgeries and times on the disabled list prior to this signing), David Delucci (3 years and what achievement warranted this signing – best numbers achieved in Texas with a hitting coach and park that assisted his achievements), Casey Kotchman (best numbers occurred the year prior to this signing and what did he achieve prior to 2011), and Danys Baez. I can’t think of one signing of major consequence in Shapiro’s time. Yes – we could look to Carl Pavano, Casey Blake, Jack Hannahan, and Kevin Millwood as contributing a little, but those were basically either minor leaguers who hadn’t gotten a good opportunity or guys coming off injuries.Every year since 2007 – we have signed someone who we hope to find “Lightning in a Bottle” Joe Borowski gave us one year, Roberto Hernandez in 2008 was a bust and was released, In 2009, it was Jose Veras and Jose Vizcaino. 2010 brought Jamey Wright with Chad Durbin in 2011. This year, we brought in Jairo Ascencio at the 11th hour.20 Non roster invitees this year and for what – what was the cost and what did we gain?We have had a few good trades where we sent some minor players and got good return1. Einar Diaz and Ryan Drese for Travis Hafner2. Russel Branyan for Juan Diaz and Ezekial Carrera (yet to see how valuable these guys will be)5. Ben Broussard for Shin Soo Choo6. Casey Blake for Carlos Santana (yet to see how good Santana will be)7. Chuck Finley for Coco Crisp – but then we made a mistake in the deal of Crisp and others to BostonWe have made minor trades where we were fleeced4. Zach Putnam for Kevin Slowey – I mention this one in that we ended up paying him to sit on the disabled list in Columbus and where did he spend last year and what did he achieve in wins?When we look at the major trades of recent times – it is scary to look to the future with any “hope”1. Cliff Lee – we have a back up infielder in Jason Donald, a back up catcher in Lou Marson, and a recovering pitcher in Carlos Carassco2. C.C. Sabathia – we have Michael Brantley, Matt LaPorta (who we have given up on and a AA pitcher who may never see Cleveland)3. Victor Martinez – we have Justin Masterson (inconsistent), Hagadone (injured prior to the trade to us and now broke his hand in a rage – plus a AAA pitcher who is struggling there)5. Jhonny Peralta for a left hander at AA, so there’s probably nothing to show for this deal6. Rafael Betancourt – nothing to show for this deal
But even after all of that solid research and fact-finding, there really wasn’t much that hasn’t been hashed out. The Cleveland sports writer said as much in his response, by pointing out all of the different columns that had been written by himself and other writers concerning the Indians frustrating mismanagement. The writer seemed to empathize with Loren, and wasn’t arrogant or condescending. Which is hard to do when you’re talking about something that’s so obvious. Of course everyone has written about this. And, really, of course all of these draft picks and trades have been hashed over, both individually and in group form.
If there were 1,000 columns written with all of these names, I’d still post these bits of research that Loren found. Every time these points are made, management is just a tiny bit more accountable. Maybe because those who know these things will get a little bit angrier, maybe there will be a few new radio show calls or letters to the Indians executives, or maybe a couple fans see the team’s body of work all together for the first time. If a quarter of the people who read this are affected somehow, then I’m happy I posted the column. We need to be mad.
So in summary, it is a disaster for 2012 and I have little faith that the front office can fix this. They appear to me to be “River Boat Gamblers” with an ownership who doesn’t want to take risks and when they have – well it seems to have not worked out more often than not.There is no reason to blame the fans as we had this same scenario starting back in the late 50’s with the trades of Rocky Colavito, Norm Cash, Roger Maris, Jim Grant, Jim Perry, Luis Tiant, etc. That continued until the 90’s and we had a good run. But since the Dolans have bought the team, it is basically a mixed bag and what now appears to be a team with no plan. I don’t like to hear a manager say, “well – I can’t fault the team’s effort” when they are in the middle of a losing streak and falling out of contention.We need a change at the top of this organization up and including the owners as they aren’t interested in winning other than lip service.
That’s Loren’s summary, and really it’s mine as well. I can’t summarize my feelings any better than Loren did in his email. Think about all of the passion it took for a fan to pour over trades, contracts, and history. Think about all the passion that a fan needs to have to not only do all that research, but also to write a 1,000 word email to a sports writer detailing his frustrations. Think about a fan loving his team so much that he remembers trades from the 1950s like they were trades from the 1990s.
Now think about that passionate fan – who stuck with the Indians through decades of futility barely peppered with successful years – losing faith.