In 2014 the Indians were very similar to the playoff team of 2013. They were “consistently inconsistent”. The problem this season is that they fell short of the playoffs and they couldn’t win down the stretch. This is a team that finished with record of 85-77. The weird part about this team is that I could see them with as low as 75 wins and as high as 95 wins. Just in the last 2 weeks, this team blew leads in 3 games while leading after the 7th inning.
Baseball is a very tricky and fickle sport. Teams play 162 games, but there are little moments throughout the season that eventually end up benefiting or costing a team a playoff spot. The Indians only needed 6 more wins to win the Central Division outright. Only 6 more wins out of their 77 losses. With the ups and downs this team had, it seems more than feasible that the 2014 Indians could have found a way to get 6 more wins.
Obviously this season the Indians had a lot of problems, lack of offensive firepower being the most glaring and costly. The performances of Swisher, Bourne, and Kipnis were huge detriments to this team. On the other hand, Brantley and Yan Gomes carried more than their fair share this season. On the radio last week I heard Bruce Hooley complaining about the Indians. I think Hooley is a pretentious whiner that only hates on Cleveland teams and the Buckeyes. Regardless of my disdain for Hooley, (and the majority of Cleveland talking heads – Goldhammer, Kiley, Booms, and Dustin Fox) Hooley said last week; “The fans want to see a guy who hits 20 homeruns and has 100 RBIs, and the Indians just don’t have that guy.” Well, for those of you that are not paying attention, I’d like to introduce you to Michael Brantley: .327 BA, 20HR, and 97RBIs (Via http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CLE/2014.shtml) Need I say more?
I will admit, and I have been saying all season, that the Indians need a right handed power bat in their lineup. This person can play 3B, RF, or DH, it really doesn’t matter. I am not a Chisenhall guy, and David Murphy is very replaceable. They just need some more firepower in the lineup. Adding to that, Francisco Lindor is expected to be the Indians shortstop of the future, but his biggest problem is that he can’t hit on the big league level. Terrific, another great defender with no offensive potential. If that is the case I would rather have Jack Hannihan back. Personally I say we trade Lindor for a power bat already established at the MLB level. This would put me in the minority. People have been drooling over Lindor for 2 years now. I am yet to be impressed.
The Indians starting pitching staff for the future looks strong, especially Kluber, Carasco, and Bauer. The jury is still out on Salazar. He certainly has the stuff, but he seems to be lacking the mental makeup to battle through an entire game. The Indians could use a decent 4th or 5th starter in the rotation. Ideally you want an inning eater with a good ERA. Hopefully this spring Salazar can figure out and fix his problems too. The bullpen could use some bolstering also. Brian Shaw and Cody Allen were clearly overworked this season. Brian Shaw was the most used reliever in the MLB this season and Allen was tied for 4th. This is based on number of appearances. (http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/pitching/_/sort/gamesPlayed) The Indians bullpen needs 1 or 2 more go to guys to help alleviate some of the stress put on Shaw and Allen. Shaw’s performance vs Detroit clearly showed his arm was tired down the stretch.
Last, I want to talk about the fans, attendance, and the front office. Here is a news flash Indians fans: The front office and current ownership are never going to spend money like the LAD, LAA, NYY, BOS, or DET. It just isn’t going to happen. So please, for the love of baseball, stop the outrage and stop asking them to spend money. It isn’t going to happen. The fans need to get over this stigma, and accept this team for what it is: a small market franchise. Fans need to stop complaining about the payroll. This year the MLB has 3 playoff teams with payrolls under $100 million dollars (A’s, Royals, and Pirates). Spending money doesn’t mean you will win a championship. I think I just thought of my next article.
Small market teams have a certain formula that is needed to win. You need young talent at a cheap price with a mix of very good veterans. This team has the pitching minus a starter and a bullpen arm. Offensively, if Kipnis and Santana can play to their potential, the offense is only 1 power bat away. With all of the ups and downs this season, this team was in the playoff chase until game #160. That is pretty damn good, considering their underperforming offense. The fans need to stop whining and start appreciating what we have. We won’t have players like Kluber and Brantley forever. It is time to stop blaming the front office and ownership. It is what it is. We blindly support the Browns even though they are have been losers for 15 seasons. The Indians are on the verge of something very special. I think it’s time we gave them the support they deserve.
Written by Rick Giavonette
Follow me on Twitter: @CST_RickG