Thursday, July 2, 2009

Traumatized? Or just bored to death?

This year's summer trip back to Cleveland has been a nostalgic one for me to say the least.

It started with a wake for a boyhood friend of mine, which reunited me with neighborhood "kids" I hadn't seen in 30 years or more.

Then there was last night's trip to Progressive Field, which transported me back to the days of Municipal Stadium.

The crowd was minuscule, mostly disinterested and definitely disgusted with a home team that seemed equally disinterested and mostly inept. I felt I was back in the late '70s.

The announcement of the starting lineup for the Tribe was greeted by a response that could only generously be called a smattering of cheers. The place was dead from start to finish of another get-it-over-with performance from the home team.

Even John Adams could barely gather enough enthusiasm to whack his big bass drum more than three or four times during the game.

The Tribe went down to a methodical defeat before the sun had even set completely

In an article by Jerry Crasnick, posted two days ago, Tribe GM Mark Shapiro says Tribe fans are "traumatized," which, from the context of the article, I took to mean shell-shocked from all of the disappointment we've taken in the past from all of our home teams.

But the current mood of Tribe fans, I think, has little to do with the town's checkered sports past.

Tribe fans are not "traumatized." Some are angry that a team that was one win from the World Series two years ago has devolved into an unwatchable mess. Others are saddened by the same phenomenon.

A number of other fans are turned off by seven years of the same old same old, with the same faces in charge and very little to be happy about during that time period and a questionable future staring them in the face.

Others - and I think this applies to a large chunk of the fan base - are just plain bored.

The result is the same night after night. An offense that has recently taken to going through the motions, knowing full well that at some point - be it in the early innings by a starter or the latter innings at the hands of the bullpen - the pitching will collapse and the team will notch another "L"

In CYA fashion, the front office members quoted in the ESPN article attempted to dial down markedly fan expectations.

Shapiro: "I truly believe in my heart that we're going to be back in the playoffs again in the next three years."

Three years? Aren't we in year seven of a five-year rebuilding program already?

And from assistant GM Chris Antonetti, these thoughts about the success of 2007 and where the team stands today:

"Any time you have the opportunity to advance in the postseason and get that close, there's some level of disappointment when you don't reach your ultimate goal of winning the World Series. We valued that at the time. We understood that for teams in our market size, with our resources, it's exceptionally challenging to repeat and sustain that level of success."

Which means what? Don't expect much any time too soon? He makes it sound as though smoke and mirrors are a necessary set of tools for a team like the Tribe to do anything more than make an accidental appearance, every so often, in the playoffs.

No wonder the team is drawing so poorly smack dab in the middle of the summer. There seems to be a general lack of hope, which has led to a general lack of interest.

There are some things the team can do to spike interest enough to at least keep the die-hards from defecting.

A new manager would be a start, but it has become abundantly clear that that won't happen - at least until the offseason. Right now a new appointee would likely be an interim choice to finish the season anyway.

But there are some other things the team can do in the area of player personnel.

As much as I like the way Jamey Carroll plays ball, the Tribe needs to get Luis Valbuena in the lineup every day to see what he has and to allow him to get needed experience.

Then there's Matt LaPorta. Why is he not up with the big club and in the lineup every day? Put him either at 1B or LF. With the trade of Mark De Rosa the Tribe has a more glaring need in LF than at 1B right now, but I think LaPorta is more likely to be a 1B long-term so I would play him there.

Which brings us to Michael Brantley - he of the 30 SBs in 33 tries at Columbus. Why not let the fans have a glimpse of him rather than more than they ever want to see of Ben Francisco?

There are other moves that could be made, and perhaps will be made, if some of the dead wood can be cleaned out before the trading deadline. Presumably some young talent will be headed in our direction if trades are made.

But from what I saw tonight - the deadest I've ever seen Jacobs/Progressive Field - some kind of shakeup is in order or the fan base will tune out the Tribe altogether before too long.


Anonymous said...

When you think of what a first class organization the Indians were under Dick Jacobs it makes a true fan want to cry to see how far the team has decayed under the Dolans.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the anonymous post above. The Dolans are solely responsible for the this downgrade. I am truly tired of hearing the General Manager plead poverty and a lack of resources as a reason for their putrid performance over the course of the last few years. While Municipal Cleveland may be mid-market, the state of Ohio is the 7th most populous in the entire union and with a proper approach to marketing the Dolans could have continued the success began under Jacobs. Instead, they completely severed ties with the success of those years by ridding the team of Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, Sabathia . There are many fans (myself included) who have never forgiven the new owners for their frugal approach to sustaining success. Furthermore, the Dolans have operated without any sense of customer service. They renamed the park despite fan outrage and gave it a horrible corporate title. While under Jacobs going to the park was a fun and classy experience, now, the food is discernibly worse and the spectators are inundated with loud advertisements between innings. The entire ballpark experience has worsened considerably on their watch. As long as the Dolans continue to operate a second rate organization trying to cut corners financially at every step, count me out. I think a lot of Clevelanders feel the same way. Sell the team!

Ron Vallo said...

Couldn't agree more with either of the two anonymous comments above. I was going to mention the minor league atmosphere , with all the BS games and loud music and T-short throws etc... , that goes on at the park now. Entertain me with baseball please. That's what I'm paying for.

If you really want to be sick, click the article I linked to in the post, part of which talks about the way the Dolans run the team.

In fact, to make it easier, I'll the just cut/paste the relevant paragraphs below.

In 2004, the Indians had Jered Weaver and Stephen Drew atop their board but passed on both players for financial reasons and selected Jeremy Sowers, a Vanderbilt product who is 33-14 with a 2.47 ERA in the minors and 14-24/5.18 in the majors.

In 2005, the Indians drafted Washington high school pitcher Tim Lincecum in the 42nd round, but ownership wasn't willing to buck the commissioner's office and spend the $1 million or so required to sign him.

Anonymous said...

You guys saw a good game indians only lost by 4 andsowers made it to the sixth.

did not know they had lincecum at one time. what a shame

Ron Vallo said...

well, they drafted him, but didn't pay the going price to sign him. so they never really had him.