July 19, 2005

Tribe Folds

The Indians managed to stop the bleeding tonight, but if they had planned to make a statement coming out after the All-Star break, consider it made:

They're not a playoff team.

The team was literally and figuratively smacked in the mouth on their home field by the White Sox this past weekend, and sooner or later even longtime backers of Eric Wedge have to start looking in the manager's direction when the question asked is "What's wrong with the Indians?"

This team has repeatedly come up flat when the big series and the big games arrive. Expectations were high locally and nationally for this group in the Spring, and the Indians responded with a two-month hitting slump to start the season. I'm not suggesting that we have the same level of talent on the field that the top four or five teams in the American League are putting out there every day, but ultimately it is the manager's job to get the most out of the players abilities, to get them to play as a cohesive unit, to maximize the talent that he has. I have no sense yet that Eric Wedge is the right guy to do that for the Indians. So far, including last year, the flops and folds are too frequent and too glaring.

For whatever reason they don't seem to be playing with the emotion that we saw for much of last year, when it was a lack of pitching that kept them from being a winning team. The players say they like Wedge. Maybe that's part of the problem. Maybe he cares whether they like him or not, and lets it affect his judgment. That's a problem for a manager in almost any setting, baseball or business.

Remarkably, they're not out of the Wild Card chase yet, and if this team has proved anything, it's that they are streaky and unpredictable. But if they don't stop playing Lucy with that football to their fans' Charlie Brown, they'll start to reinforce that famous Cleveland pessimism, and make the fans believe, more than they already do, that we can't win the big game or the big series.

Eric Wedge is the key to turning this thing around, away from the notion that Cleveland is just a stopping point on the career path of the good players, on their way to a city and a team that has a chance to win it all. I hope he can do it, but for the first time, I'm having real doubts.

Posted by dan at July 19, 2005 12:08 AM