Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Indians and Expectations

The Indians are looking better of late, sweeping the Blue Jays last night. It's weird, I watch these games now and I expect them to win. I'm waiting for them to find a way to pull it out. It wasn't like this earlier in the season, it was the opposite; we would wait for the bullpen to blow it, didn't matter how big the lead was (remember that White Sox game? ugh).

The Hornless Rhino mentioned the Tribe being the Kings of Garbage Time and I'm wondering if I agree. Papa Cass goes much deeper and wonders if it's the Indians' culture:
To me, it perpetuates the idea that the Indians are breeding a culture more concerned with computation than competition. When winning is an abstract concept, when problems can be solved with hypotheses and players can be quantified with software, this organization seems to operate at its best.

When the focus shifts from the hope of the future to the demands of the present, then there are problems.

I'm not sure I totally agree, but I am thinking about it (I do know that I'm enjoying these wins and watching the kids play).

Then today, Bud Shaw got in on the act:

Making a turnaround after trading off veterans, though, doesn't mean the Indians have found the kind of young talent that won't be denied next year. The Marlins charged back, too. So did the Phillies.

Teams sometimes hit this gear when young players do the driving late in a lost year. The supporting cast that has played well enough in the last month to make .500 seem plausible offers as much reason for pause as anything else, if only because it hasn't gone through a season when contention was expected.

This organization needs you to believe in next year so deeply that you take from the college fund to buy tickets. But it should have to do something more than recycle optimism to gain your trust, let alone your credit card number.

Two years ago, the Indians raced into contention in August when no one thought them capable, and then promptly fell into an open manhole. The added cannon fire to their charge last season was impressive in that it sent the Chicago White Sox reeling. But look what happened. The Indians couldn't stand prosperity.

They gave back the wild card. Lugging the same expectations into this season, they shied from the acclaim almost immediately. That "quick" start in April amounted to 13-12 for the month.

That's not a statement unless it spoke to a growing lack of faith in the plan inside the clubhouse. Players who were told the agonizing experience in the last week of the season was a character builder sure to make them stronger in '06 saw the roster made weaker with the losses of Bob Howry, Kevin Millwood and Coco Crisp.

The Dolans need to give General Manager Mark Shapiro some financial room to make mistakes. He's hardly the problem. He's the same GM who acquired Sizemore and Hafner after all.
Just a few things, I may be misunderstanding the veterans remark, but we're all aware that the guys Shapiro traded away this season wouldn't be back next year anyway, right? It wasn't like he was trading off people under contract for the next few years.

And about the Howry, Millwood and Crisp line. Texas gave Millwood a "Nene" type deal. A deal where the player signs it and is immediately over paid. Who blames the Tribe for that? As for Crisp... Boston isn't exactly thrilled with him right now; he's been hurt all year and has underwhelmed (trust me, he's on my fantasy team). Even if Marte doesn't become the Tribe's third baseman for the next decade, I think I'll be alright.

More Papa Cass:
2. At times, it seems like this team has no idea how to translate talent into winning

Talent is a must when building a winner. But a team must also consistently empower and motivate that talent. So far, I'm not seeing that out of the Indians. Manager Eric Wedge deserves some of the blame, but I think it's an organizational thing.

There is no reason why the Indians, a team with a very capable offense and starting rotation, should be as bad as they are. It's all between the ears.

3. Wedge and Shapiro are vanilla and vanilla

No smoke, no fire. Heck, not even a palpable difference of opinion. The brain monster known as Wedgiro brings the same ideas, same philosophies, same leadership style and maybe even the same hair care products to the table. That's not a good recipe when things grow stagnant, as I think they have in the Indians' front office.
Though I kinda like Wedge, part of me wonders A) if the Indians could use a new voice in the clubhouse and B) is Wedge saving his job by going on this late surge towards .500?

I mean, Lou Piniella is out there, isn't he?

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