Hope Fades in Cleveland as Tribe Drops Fifth Straight in Oakland
Indians fans had high hopes for this season coming off a very promising 2011 campaign that saw the team hold onto first place until injuries dropped them out of contention in August. The Indians started 2012 strong as well, but a lack of a consistent offense, and a fledgling starting rotation have led to a very disappointing second half of the season and have left the fan base searching for a reason to believe that there is a future for their ball club.
Since the All-Star break, the Indians have gone 10-26, and have lost 18 of their past 22 games which have included an 11-game losing streak and their current 5-game skid which saw them lose 2 of 3 to Los Angeles and get swept by the Oakland A’s. Things won’t get much better for the club as they get ready to head to Safeco field to do battle with the red-hot Seattle Mariners on Monday before returning home to do battle with the New York Yankees this weekend. During their current slump, the Indians’ pitching staff has combined for an ERA of 6.98, which does not include the seven unearned runs that opposing teams have notched against what is becoming one of the worst teams in baseball.
On Sunday, Justin Masterson allowed 7 runs on 9 hits in 5 2/3 innings of work mixing in a walk and 5 strike outs in the process. It was far too much for the Tribe’s anemic offense to match as they were shut-out in Oakland 7-0. On Saturday, it was young Corey Kluber who got rocked for 4 runs on 4 hits in 5 innings of work as he took the loss when the Tribe fell to the A’s 8-5. Kluber is now 0-2 since being called up from Triple-A, and though he will likely get to start for the rest of the season now that Josh Tomlin has been shut down with a sore elbow, he will need to show some signs of improvement if he has any hope to be a part of the Tribe’s starting five in 2013.
Over the past week, the lone bright spot for the Indians’ rotation was the return of Roberto Hernandez (formerly known to the world as Fausto Carmona) who despite giving up 8 runs on 10 hits in the 2012 debut managed to keep his cool and had a respectable first outing given the fact that he had no real offseason and was rushed through his minor-league assignment in an attempt to bring some spark back to the Indians’ rotation. Hernandez will get his next start on Tuesday in Seattle where he will do battle with Felix Hernandez, fresh off tossing a perfect game on Wednesday night.
Now that the Tribe is sitting in fourth place behind the Kansas City Royals and are sitting 11 ½ games out of first, the rest of the 2012 campaign will be spent evaluating their talent for next season and beyond. It is very likely that we have seen the last of Travis Hafner in an Indians uniform as the designated hitter is on the DL with a back issue again. It is also likely that we will never again see Grady Sizemore take the field in an Indians jersey as the centerfielder has yet to play a game this season, and with every passing day it looks more and more like the Indians will simply give him the rest of the season off and let him walk away in free agency. There will certainly be some September call-ups to give some of their Triple-A guys a chance to show what they’ve got, but replacing Hafner is going to require the club to sign a free agent this winter, or trade off someone like Shin-Soo Choo or Chris Perez (both of whom are going to be looking for a lot more money than the Indians can afford after next season) to try to land a true-tested bat that will bring some stability to the heart of their batting order. The question that remains to be answered is will there be anyone left that cares in Cleveland next spring when the Indians break camp and start the regular season?
The Tribe sat 29th out of 30 MLB franchises in attendance heading into the weekend drawing in 1,219,954 fans over 59 home games. Only the Tampa Bay Rays have drawn fewer fans, and they still have hopes at making the postseason, something the Indians and their fans don’t have to worry about this year. The Indians rank just above the Rays and the Oakland A’s in average home attendance, drawing in 20,677 per game; again, both Tampa and Oakland have playoff hopes in mind and neither team ever draws crowds at home due mainly to their antiquated stadiums which make it a less-than-desirable experience to attend a game. The Indians, on the other hand, still have one of the finest facilities in all of baseball, and short of the upcoming series with the New York Yankees, Progressive Field will likely remain mostly empty for the remaining 22 home games as even their Central Division games against rivals Chicago and Detroit have little meaning anymore and thus will not likely draw many fans downtown. The sad fact is that the Indians’ fan base has watched too many big names walk away either via trades or via free agency, and have waited too long for the current ownership to build a contender. The window of opportunity for the current team is quickly closing, and if they fail to field a contender next season, what little is left of a once powerful fan base that sold out Jacob’s Field for 455 straight games back in the 1990’s may disappear forever.
By Robert Gonzalez