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The Cleveland Indians were many analysts’ pick to win not only the American League, but the World Series this year. Keep in mind that the Tribe has the longest streak in the American League without a World Series win, but with both Sox (the white and red) breaking their streaks during the past half decade, some would assume the Wahoo’s time is now. The only problem is that being picked doesn’t guarantee a team a trip to the Series, or even the post season; they actually have to win games.
That seems to be the problem with the Tribe this season as four members of their lineup during tonight’s game against the Boston Red Sox had batting averages below .200.
Designated hitter Travis Hafner’s poor performance last year was attributed to his contract talks during the regular season. Even though Tribe loyalists will point out that he still managed to post 100 RBIs during the season, but they fail to mention that this is probably the most overrated statistic in sports (behind saves of course).
This would make many believe that the Indians are going to have to rely on their pitching and with two 19 game winners on the starting staff, that doesn’t sound too bad. Unfortunately for those in Northeast Ohio, last year’s Cy Young Award winner, C.C. Sabathia, and his protégé, Fausto Carmona, have pitched more like end of the rotation pitchers than award winners this season.
Sabathia openly stated that he was not going to talk about his upcoming contract, which many believe will be in the neighborhood of $25 million per year, during the season, but he is clearly thinking about it.
Carmona responded to his new contract, the highest ever to a pitcher who was not yet arbitration eligible, by not making it through four innings against the A’s on the weekend.
The bullpen has been a problem as well. Even though closer Joe Borowski led the American League in saves last year, many made note of his ERA which was north of 5. This season, he has had a penchant for the home run ball as he gave up two game winning home runs in the ninth inning last week before heading to the DL for 15 days.
The Indians are in a tough division that has the team with the second highest payroll in baseball, a team who just won the World Series three years ago and the surprising Royals who are currently in first place.
If they are to make any progress, they have to find ways to win games. Jake Westbrook, along with two performances by Cliff Lee, has been their only reliable starting pitcher thus far and their bullpen looks like it’s still tired from last year’s trip to the ALCS.
The corner outfield spots are in need of an upgrade, something that did not happen during the off season. Perhaps the team will acquire Cleveland favorite Kenny Lofton at mid season once again, but the team will be quickly reminded that Lofton cannot hit a left hander any longer.
Even though the season is still in its first month, the Indians have to find a way to get themselves over the .500 mark or their season is going to be gone before they know it.
One upside would be that if they are out of it by the time the trade deadline rolls around, they would be able to get something for Sabathia instead of giving him up for nothing in the off season.