The Cleveland Indians recently won 10 games in a row. The last 9 of those games were road games. They returned home and got swept in 3 games by the lowly Mariners. Now, they turn around and take the first 2 games handily from the division leading White Sox.
What if they would have taken (and they sure could have) 2 of the 3 games from the Mariners? They would be 7.5 games out of first place with 25 games remaining. A year ago, the Rockies were in 4th place before taking the field on September 3rd with a record of 70 - 66. They won 20 of 27 games to capture the wild card spot (including the tremendous 1-game playoff).The way the Twins and White Sox are playing, a focused and driven team, playing with nothing to lose could win 19 of those remaining 25 games and possibly take the division with 86 victories. It would be a difficult task but it is not totally out of the question. It would mean that both the White Sox and the Twins could win no more than 9 of their remaining 24 games each.
Yes, we have all heard it all season long...The injuries and slow start for many of the Indians' players...blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!
In this season of disappointment, the Indians continue to put their own backs against the wall each time they make some progress. As said so many times before, this team has a strong nucleus and could have competed in the division long before now.
When the team assembled in Spring Training, very little had been done by V.P. and General Manager Mark Shapiro to improve a team that tied for the most wins in baseball in 2007. Injuries to key players were not disclosed. Because they had not improved, there was pressure on these players to play through their injuries. Catcher Victor Martinez obviously was suffering from an injury to his right shoulder and further complicated that with an injury to his leg sliding on opening day. He continued to play until he basically could not play anymore. Travis Hafner obviously came to camp damaged and hurting. (He still doesn't look right!) So your top 2 sluggers are hurt, not producing, and clogging up the bases when they do get on. Early on, when Martinez, Hafner, Garko, and Peralta reached 1st base, they could only get to 2nd on a single. We couldn't hit and when we did hit, we couldn't score because we couldn't run. What kind of incentive is that for the younger players, watching these guys play at 40% and icing down constantly?
It is easy to sit here and say, "They shouldn't have been in there," but you know what? "Martinez and Hafner shouldn't have been in there!"
You have to trace the failings of the younger players back to Shapiro and Manager Eric Wedge. For Shapiro to make a statement (in mid-April when the team was floundering) to the effect of, "We are not going to react until we reach the 40-game mark," tells these younger players that it is acceptable to hit under .220 until 25% of the season is in the tank. For Wedge to insist that it will come together "If we just keep after it," is ridiculous. There was no accountability. Recently, Garko failed to run out a foul ball that decided to go fair. Wedge blasted him, sat him, fined him, and made him think about it. What happened? The guy is on fire since then! OK, this is just more of the blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
The bottom line is, shame on the front office and the manager for setting low expectations and not holding players accountable to their potential.
OK, OK, OK, so what do you do on September 3rd?
You play with reckless abandon, all out, and with nothing to lose. You win as many of the remaining 25 games as you can, you try to finish as high as you can in the standings, and you see what happens.
This team has lost key players to injuries and trades throughout this season but since July 7th, they are 30 - 19, playing at a .612 clip. Since August 1st, they are 20 - 10, playing .667 ball. Over their last 25 games, they are 18 - 7, playing .720 ball.
It is time to cut loose, kick ass, and take names!
They owe it to their fans...They owe it to themselves!
Let's see what happens...