Going back and reading Jay’s Fire Everyone! – The Mission piece from late in the 2009 season brought up a few points to me that shows some definite breaks in the foundation of something in the Cleveland Indiansorganization.
Let’s first off realize that we’re really not competing directly with 25 teams in baseball. Our battle each and every season is to outperform the Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins.
Here is the one striking thing that Jay had to say that really stuck with me (keep in mind his data is through the 2009 season):
The five teams in our division have secured seven playoff spots over the past six seasons, and we only got one of those seven spots. This, despite the fact that the Twins are no better off than the Indians. This, despite the Tigers and White Sox squandering their financial edges with massive, ill-conceived contracts. This, despite the Royals not being under competent management as of yet. We should have had two or three of those seven spots, and we should have competed for four or five of them — that is a reasonable goal for this club. The fact that we didn’t is an organizational failure, plain and simple.
Moving forward with Jay’s point that from 2004-2009 the Indians snatched just one playoff spot and only truly competed once more, in 2005. And let’s remember that Jay was kind in his snatching of 2004-2009 because 2002 and 2003 were seasons in which the Indians didn’t compete one iota. Therefore, from 2002-2009 we took just one playoff berth and competed just twice in eight seasons.
Taking a look at the Indians competition numbers since the 2007 ALCS loss isn’t very rosy.
Let’s say the Indians slip out of contention this year, as it seems they will, and we again don’t compete for a berth. That would be the fifth season in a row that we’ve completely failed to compete in what is arguably one of the easiest divisions in baseball to compete in.
I dug around for data on every team in MLB to find out who else has not competed even once in the past five seasons.
The criteria I used were if a team had any first or second place finishes or any playoff berth I deemed that a competitive season. There of course some things that I personally used an override on though. The 2011 Indians finished second but were 15 games out. That is not competitive.
Of the 30 teams in baseball, the following are the ones who, like us, have not had any competitive seasons since our 2007 ALCS berth. I listed their order of finish in their respective division from 2008-2012 in that order.
Baltimore: 5, 5, 5, 5, 2
Cleveland: 3, 4, 4, 2, 3
Houston: 3, 5, 4, 6, 6
Kansas City: 4, 4, 5, 4, 5
Seattle: 4, 3, 4, 4, 4
Toronto: 4, 4, 4, 4, 5
*All 2012 places are updated entering play on Friday.
Oakland, Pittsburgh and Washington had not truly “competed” from 2008 until this season. Oakland did finish 2nd in the AL West in 2010 but finished 9.0 games out.
I have a relatively high amount of confidence that these three clubs all will remain in contention through the end of the season. If they don’t though, then lump whichever falls off into this group. Technically, Baltimore could be grouped with this trio but they could lose just a couple games and already be in fifth. The other teams are much more likely to stay in contention. Toronto is on the other end than Baltimore and a winning week could see them take second. We’ll see what happens with those two.
Alright, we’re left with six teams who haven’t given their fans anything yet (Bal, Cle or Tor could still contend this year though) to be happy about in terms of their final result since the 2007 season.
Houston, Kansas City and Seattle actually should be labeled as trainwrecks because they’ve been completely hopeless each and every season in this study.
Baltimore and Toronto face significantly bigger hurdles than Cleveland and the “trainwrecks” as they play in the much more difficult AL East. Whether it’s fair to tell them or not, but they should face slightly less expectations due to their circumstances and it’s unfortunate for them.
Cleveland cumulatively has a much higher overall record than Houston, Kansas City or Seattle through the past five years but that doesn’t mean we were much more successful. Take a look at what happens at the game threads around this place each September as the Indians drift into obscurity. It’s a clear example of failure in the organization when in our division, as Jay said, we should at least obtain the resources to clearly compete for 4-5 years out of 7.
Since the “glory days” ended in 2001 we have directly competed just twice in eleven seasons and secured just a single playoff berth. And in the past five seasons we’re just one of four (or more, depending if you add in the AL East teams or if any of the “contenders” this year fall off) teams who has failed to have a relevant September.
It doesn’t take a math expert to see that 2 of 11 or 0 of 5 pails in comparison to 4/5 of 7.
Look, the standards I set for this weren’t that high. I only wanted one competitive season from five (far from what Jay asked for) and the Indians didn’t live up to it.
The Indians made a big move last summer in acquiring Ubaldo Jimenez in a surprising trade with the Colorado Rockies. It’s been noted everywhere and by everyone, but it is true that the Indians likely need to contend by 2013 or they will have to live through some rough years as the farm system is bleak and many core players won’t be with the organization anymore.
Chris Antonetti showed last summer that he was going for it with this group and three races left in their window. After the trade last year the Indians bombed by losing 11 of 12 to their direct competitor, Detroit, and finished 15 back. This year the first half went alright for AL Central standards but yet again the team is slipping and it doesn’t seem likely they’ll stick in the race through 162 games. I’m a bit bullish though about the team and think there still is a fairly good chance they can make a surge.
That may leave the team with just 2013 as a season to be a serious contender. Many Indians fans lamented the lack of big moves Antonetti made at the 2012 trade deadline. It was frustrating to watch as the pieces we wish we could have acquired, and were reported on by the LGT staff, either were moved or, as in most cases, they were simply kept by their current club.
The moves Antonetti did make weren’t upgrades to the core of the team. The upgrades were to the fringe guys. While they might help out a bit, they’re completely underwhelming in the push for the division title as we need upgrades to the starting lineup and rotation, not to AAA or the bench. No offense to Lillibridge or Anderson.
Adam wrote a great piece outlining many of the Indians potential pieces in deals if Antonetti was interested in going for it with this current core. Let’s take a look at some key words in his summary and as the Indians situation ends up being pretty straight forward.
The bulk of the Indians assets come in the form of low-ceiling pitching arms. Whether they be starters in Akron or Columbus, or bullpen arms scattered throughout the system, the Indians have a wealth of arms that “could” be interesting to the right buyer (or seller). None of these guys are trade “headliners,” and I doubt the Indians will be able to put together a Ubaldo-like “headline” trade. They already did that last year. The lack of development in the pre-Brad Grant positional prospects really costs the Indians. Guys like Weglarz, Fedroff, Crowe, Mills, Bellows, etc., should be tradable assets now, but all are marginal players or gone at this point.
The Indians just really couldn’t put together any packages that any other club valued highly enough to part with an impact player which can be pretty much defined as one of the people covered in the wonderful “Trade Target” series the LGT guys worked on.
The Indians were trying to bring in both players who could help now, and for the future. Ubaldo was in that boat last year and the goal this year was to just bring in anyone who could do the same but was less of a “name.”
Paul Cousineau of The DiaTribe comments on the failure of the Indians to even put together a package for a pair of players who could have done the job for us but were pretty well know to the average baseball fan:
Most notable was the trade between the Cubs and the Braves that sent LHP Paul Maholm (under club control through next year) and 4th OF/LHP masher Reed Johnson to Atlanta, as those two players would have filled the Indians’ needs – short-term and long-term – pretty neatly by adding to the rotation for today and tomorrow and by upgrading from the troika currently roaming around LF. And while the cost for the Braves looks like a couple of Minor-League arms (and one injured one at that), let’s realize that Atlanta gave up a 21-year-old RHPin Aroldys Vizcaino that throws in the upper-90s that ranked #62 on Kevin Goldstein’s pre-2011 prospect list who had already made it to MLB as a 20-year-old last year. Though Vizcaino may end up in the bullpen and while I realize that he’s been hurt and doesn’t figure to contribute until next year…yeah, that young, fireballing arm is still something that the Indians don’t have unless you’re talking about them giving up a Carlos Carrasco (who is 4 years older than Vizcaino and not under club control for as long) for that duo.
Remember the idea that the Indians lacked the ammo (in terms of prospects) to make the additions that they may have felt were necessary?
Yeah, that even applies to a package that could have netted them Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson…
Johnson fills a double need for the Indians. He hits right handed and he plays left field while also having the versatility to play center in small doses and right.
Interestingly enough, his contract ends after the 2013 season. He has an 119 OPS+ in the 2012 season.
Maholm’s story is fairly similar. He fills our biggest need as a “front of the rotation” starter as our staff has been embarrassingly bad in 2012. While his 107 ERA+ this year doesn’t really back that “front of the rotation” description I just laid out, on the current version of the Indians he’d likely be our ace if he kept that up.
His contract has a team option that will in all likelihood be picked up in 2013 as well.
Those two pieces being added to the Atlanta Braves were the type of thing that the Indians still couldn’t even get as our prospects aren’t valued enough to get that done.
As this 2012 squad barrels through the rest of this year and into 2013 it’s pretty unclear whether this group is going to accomplish anything. Without something drastic brought in to the rotation and at least one impact bat added it’s going to be a tough ride.
I guess I’m not sure whether Antonetti is going to keep going for it as his Ubaldo trade showed he would or whether he’ll start shipping out some core players this winter to upgrade the farm system.
And let’s not even get started on thinking about what the 2014 season may look like as the fairly barren farm system will be called upon heavily to replace many of the current men running out each day for the Tribe.
The only thing I’m going to keep hoping for though is that we’ll be sitting around late in 2017 saying the next five years went as poorly as 2008-2012 because that would be inexcusable at best.