If you were one of the alleged 13,018 in attendance last night, I salute you. You are a real diehard. The rumor is the Indians season ticket base is about 8,500 or so. When STO made the not so wise decision to show overhead or long view shots of Progressive Field, it looked as though there were 3,500, maybe 4,000 tops in the stands. The Dolan family, Mark Shapiro, Chris Antonetti, and the rest of the front office should prepare themselves for crowds like this not only the rest of the way, but into next season. When the product on the field looks like it did last night, or for the last five weeks for that matter, can you blame people for not wanting to come?
The Oakland Athletics, a team constructed the same way as the Indians (i.e. low payroll) rolled into town as one of, if not the, hottest teams in baseball. Look up and down their lineup, and it won’t impress you. Their biggest name is Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, who is essentially toiling in anonymity because he plays in Oakland. Next to him, the biggest name you know is Coco Crisp. The difference between these two teams is simple – the A’s have terrific young starting pitching, while the Indians don’t.
Brett Anderson, the best young starter in the organization, is back after last season’s Tommy John surgery. The lefty was making just his second start of the season. Usually it takes a pitcher coming off TJS some time to find their groove again. Then again, said pitchers are never were lucky enough to face the Indians right-handed heavy lineup late in a season.
I’m not even trying to be funny here, but watching the guys Manny Acta has to put in his lineup past his top five night in and night out is a downright embarrassing. No wonder nobody is showing up to the park these days. Last night’s bottom four was Shelley Duncan, Brent Lillibridge, Matt LaPorta, and Lou Marson. Remember back to 1995, the glory year which is something we will never see again in this town (and you “Jacobs Field era” Tribe fans need to come to grips with that fact), the bottom four was Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Sandy Alomar, and Paul Sorrento.
This is essentially like comparing my basketball prowess to that of an NBA player. OK, that is overstating it a tad, but it sure seems like an apt comparison.
Anderson had a perfect game going into the fifth inning, and allowed just two hits over seven innings on his way to his second victory. Relievers Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour finished the job retiring six of the seven Indians they faced. It was fitting that Balfour struck out the side in the ninth.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the mound was Roberto Hernandez, who allowed three runs on four hits in two and a third before leaving with a an ankle injury. Josh Reddick, a young corner outfielder who was available for a trade this offseason and the Indians passed on, crushed his 26th homer of the season. Cespedes, a guy the Indians kicked the tires on this winter as well but deemed too rich for their blood, doubled off of Fauxberto twice. Really, that is all you need to know.
Fauxberto’s ankle is not supposed to be serious, but then again, what does it really matter. Lefty/Tom Brady doppleganger Chris Seddon replaced Hernandez and didn’t allow a run in four and two-thirds of two hit ball. Cody Allen pitched the final two innings in similar fashion.
SIDE NOTE – I am considering going with “The Assassin” for Allen’s nickname. In the iconic rap song “Don’t Believe The Hype” by Public Enemy, one of the last lines is “I’m going to my media assassin, Harry Allen, I gotta ask him.” This is what this season has come to. Coming up with nicknames for rookie relievers who weren’t on my radar screen three months ago. Eerily similar to 2002 when my brother and I decided that hot-headed Tribe rookie starter Ricardo Rodriguez should be nicknamed “The Duke.” The other similarity to 2002 is that the Indians were horrible.
But I digress.
All the Tribe could muster in this one was two hits. Somewhere, Harry Doyle was saying “two hits, that’s all we got two G-D hits!” Really, they only had one, Lillibridge’s double in the sixth. Replays showed that Michael Brantley should have been called out on his infield single that broke up Anderson’s perfecto in the fifth.
Duncan and LaPorta, two guys who are essentially the same player, were a combined 0-6. LaPorta K’d twice in three at-bats. It still amazes me that so many Tribe fans wanted to see this guy again. As if you forgot that he fishes for breaking stuff low and away and doesn’t have the bat speed to catch up to Major League fastballs. I actually feel bad for LaPorta. He is a good dude who just couldn’t live up to being the answer.
Duncan is still on this team because he is beloved in the clubhouse and by Acta. They could have easily DFA’d him, and rightfully so. He is 31 years old and is hitting .202. He doesn’t have a future with this club, but they are doing him a favor. Once the rosters expand this weekend and the other “savior” that so many want to see (Russ Canzler) arrives, Duncan won’t be seeing much if any playing time. Might as well keep Shelley around as a mentor the rest of the way.
Speaking of Canzler, I get tweets all the time asking me why he hasn’t gotten his shot and that he can’t be any worse than the Duncan’s, Kotchman’s, and LaPorta’s of the world. Here is the thing. He came over essentially as a DFA guy from Tampa Bay, an organization that prides itself on developing young talent, bringing them to the majors and watching them grow. They just don’t give up on real prospects. If he was anything more than 4A, he’d still be in Tampa. Not to mention, if he were a legitimate option, don’t you think the Indians would have tried him months ago, considering they are the worst offensive team in the American League?
The bottom line. Russ Canzler = Shelley Duncan = Matt LaPorta.
Coming up with good material regarding this team on a day to day basis is not easy, folks. But I will keep grinding for you, like our old friend Eric Wedge always wanted.
(photo via Scott Shaw/PD)