Opinion: The Glory Days At Progressive Field Are Over For Now
Written by Brandon Lewis on May 27, 2019
Photo Credit: delawarenorth.com
As the great Colin Cowherd has always said, “Dynasties come out of nowhere and close quickly. You have to take advantage of your window.”
Unfortunately for baseball fans in Cleveland, Ohio, their Indians’ window has now been closed and bolted shut, only three years after being a run away in the 10th inning of a game seven in a classic World Series with the Chicago Cubs, a series the Indians had a grip on after winning Game 4 7-2 to take a 3-1 lead.
Entering Game 5 of the 2016 Fall Classic, the Tribe under Manager Terry Francona had a record of 10-3 in the postseason. Since, they have a 2-9 record, including losing their last six.
Last season after getting swept in the ALDS by the 2017 World Series Champion Houston Astros in ugly fashion, Indians owner Paul Dolan declared the team needed to cut back on payroll as the record amounts of money the Indians were spending were not equaling wins. The Indians decided to put all their eggs in one basket, their starting pitching. They resigned Carlos Carrasco and decided to keep pitchers Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer instead of trading them while moving off of relievers Cody Allen and Andrew Miller.
They also decided to not bring back beloved outfielder Michael Brantley, Edwin Encarnacion, Lonnie Chisenhall, Gio Urshela, Yandy Diaz, Yonder Alonso and Erik Gonzales. All the Indians got in return was Carlos Santana back, a young utility player in Jake Bauers, outfield prospect Daniel Jones, pitching prospect Jefry Rodriguez, bullpen hep in A.J. Cole and Nick Wittgren and catcher Kevin Plawecki. Those moves by the Indians front office led me to believe the team was trying to get younger while still trying to contend in a weak American League Central division, which I was all for.
The plan seemed to be working, and the Indians looked like they were on their way to having a solid season at the end of April. The team was 16-12, and Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis were just getting back from injury. I know 16-12 is not a spectacular record, but it actually is the best start the Indians have had under Francona in April:
Indians under Francona in March and April
Then, the Indians worse nightmare happened. The team could not survive the losses of Kluber and Mike Clevinger any longer, and the entire starting pitching staff began to decline. In the month of May, the Indians ranked 14 in team Earned Run Average(ERA), a far cry from April when they were ranked No. 3 in the league with an ERA of just above three, causing the Indians to endure the worst May they have had under Francona:
Indians under Francona in May, and their total record through the first two months of the season
|Year||Record in May||Total record through May|
|2019||10-13||26-26(through May 26)|
Now, the numbers do not look too different from what the Tribe did in the first two months in 2016 and 2017, but the numbers do not tell the story. The play on the field in May of 2019 for the Indians has been down right ugly. There’s no other word to describe it.
Every time the offense scores a run, which has been hard to do in the first place, the pitching gives up a run right back. The offense is not coming up with a key hit when they need to, and they are not taking advantage of walks. The defense is committing errors instead of turning easy double plays and throwing out runners trying to steal.
Not only has the on the field product not been up to par, but the Indians are fighting another battle this season that they have not had to fight with in a couple of years; their division. Currently, the Minnesota Twins look unbeatable, winning five in a row and punishing their opponents with the long ball, hitting 482 home runs, which is good enough for second in the entire league while the Tribe have hit a league-low 362 dingers. The Twins at the time of this writing have a 10 game lead on the Indians in the Central and while the Tribe are only a game back of the second Wild Card spot, the Indians do not feel like a playoff team.
They feel like a team on the verge of being broken apart and for the record, I would break the team apart. Indians fans for years have criticized Dolan for being “cheap”. I have always defended Dolan because the Indians are in a small market and in a league with no salary cap, it is hard to constantly compete as my fellow BSR colleague Sean Fitzgerald detailed in his article: Why Baseball Needs An Official Salary Cap
The fact the Indians have had an above .500 record the last seven seasons is not only a testament to Francona’s ability to manage a team, but it also shows that Dolan and the entire Indians front office want to win. Over the last three seasons at the trade deadline, the Indians made big trades to put themselves in World Series contention, and it just did not work out. Now, with the Indians seemingly out of World Series contention for the foreseeable future, General Manager Mike Chernoff and President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti have to be “grown ups” as Cowherd would say and make tough decisions on the future of their team.
Trading Lindor should not be out of the realm of possibilities. Back in the winter, Dolan made a comment about Lindor’s contract being up at the end of the 2022 season, saying “enjoy him”, putting fans into a frenzy. I always have defended Dolan on the comment because I would have said the same thing.
If I was the owner of an MLB team, I would refuse to pay a player a 10 year, $400 million contract. There just not worth the money to me no matter if I was in a big or small market. Historically, the contracts do not work out for the ball club.
I would try to get it least four future prospects for Lindor. I would trade Bauer and Kluber for more prospects. I would also try to dump Jose Ramirez, Roberto Perez and Kipnis.
Would it be the 2009 fire sale all over again? Yes, but how did that work out? In four years, the Indians were back in the playoffs, and in three more years they had a World Series in the palm of their hands.
I realize Francona is on the back nine, which is why I would get prospects that are cheap and almost ready to play. That way by 2021 or 2022 the Indians can be competing in the Fall Classic again. Right now, the team is filled with old veterans and players that are too young to be in the big leagues, and that is the worst place a team could be in.
Face it Tribe fans: The glory days of baseball at Progressive Field with the likes of Lindor, Kluber, Ramirez and Kipnis are over. Hopefully, ownership realizes this as well, so then the Tribe can get a headstart on a reboot.
Brandon Lewis is the Web Director for blacksquirrelradio.