Today I am testing the limits of my abilities to be an understanding fan in a smallish baseball market. I am currently wondering if the Indians’ failures this season might actually be the best thing in the world for this team in the long run. And this comes less than a year after the Indians were 27 outs away from a trip to the World Series. Realize how big a leap this is for me and try to run with me on this one for a little bit. As I am typing here in this first paragraph, I don’t even know if I am going to convince myself before the end of the post. From a long-term perspective of the Cleveland Indians, could failure this year be better for this team than success?
Success is a lot of fun. Don’t ask me how I know. As a Cleveland sports fan, success is a mystical theory rather than a tangible feeling. Last year, the Indians got really close to the World Series. If they had gotten there, I think they had a hell of a chance against the Colorado Rockies. I know that this isn’t foolproof logic, but the Red Sox swept the Rockies and the Indians were able to go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox. But the Indians didn’t have enough to get over the top when almost everything was going right. Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez anchored the offense. Asdrubal Cabrera provided a much-needed lift both offensively and defensively. The bullpen was crazy good. The Raphaels (Perez and Betancourt) were ridiculously effective out of the bullpen. Given a year of time and the Indians’ current struggles, I think it is safe to say that they were playing a bit over their heads last year.
So, now the Indians are 5 1/2 games back of the Chicago White Sox despite excellent starting pitching. Cliff Lee has re-emerged as a legit front of the rotation starting pitcher. CC Sabathia has overcome some early troubles to be an effective number one starter. Aaron Laffey has filled in admirably for Jake Westbrook and now Fausto Carmona during injuries.
But the offense can’t get anything going. Asdrubal Cabrera and Franklin Gutierrez are mired in sophomore slumps. Grady Sizmore hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t been a superstar. Victor Martinez has a good average, but has yet to hit a homer this season. Jhonny Peralta has some homers, but a horrendous average. Garko has failed to do much at all. Jason Michaels was run out of town. Dellucci hasn’t been great. Even the callups like Ben Francisco, while better, haven’t provided enough of a spark to get this team going.
The fact is that this team that I was bragging about last season because of their depth looks absolutely thin right now. Looking down the road to Buffalo doesn’t provide too much light at the end of the tunnel either.
Back to the point. Could failure this year be better for the Cleveland Indians in the long run? Well, if the Indians become sellers rather than buyers as we approach the trade deadline, then yes, I think it could be better. The idea this year was that the Indians were going to keep everything in place to make a run at the World Series including the most talked about upcoming free agent C.C. Sabathia.
If the Indians were to trade C.C. and then later in the year trade Paul Byrd (another upcoming free agent) to a contender in a playoff race there is no telling how much young talent they could infuse into the team. It would be like the Bartolo Colon trade all over again, except this time Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez, Cliff Lee, Fausto Carmona, and to a lesser extent Garko, Peralta and other pieces are already here.
It would be like jumpstarting a rebuilding so that there wouldn’t be any rebuilding at all.
The Indians would lose C.C. Sabathia and they would still have Fausto Carmona, Cliff Lee, Jake Westbrook and Aaron Laffey in the starting rotation. The Indians would still have all the suspect offensive pieces in place, but maybe they could have two or three legit possibilities at third base and the corner outfield positions.
But if the Indians were marginally successful this year and DON’T make the World Series, they probably have to face the future with that same personnel when C.C. Sabathia leaves this offseason for $25 million per season somewhere else. At least if they get an opportunity to trade him they can get the future in place.
See? I don’t know if even I am convinced. Maybe this is just me trying to put a silver lining on how badly the Indians are playing right now.