Alright, so, contrary to popular belief, we’re not dead- just busy. And, let’s face facts, this baseball season hasn’t really given us a whole lot to talk about. The Tribe fell out of contention early, and, as a result, did away its expendable veterans- namely, Jake Westbrook, Austin Kearns, and Kerry Wood. Still, even after enduring a few rough patches, the Indians have seemed to patch things together, and have found some fire towards the end of the season, going 15-12 to date in September. More notably, in the (admittedly unlikely) event of a sweep of the White Sox this weekend, the Tribe could post a .500 post-All Star Break record (37-37), and post 71 wins for the year. While this is not exactly news-worthy, it is a step forward for a team that, for a time, looked like they could very well finish the year with 100 losses.
Additionally, compare those numbers to last year’s team, which finished the season with 97 losses, won only 30 post- ASB games, and finished the year with a 7-21 record in September, and lost all 4 of its games in October. Sure, that was a team plagued by injuries, inexperience, and the loss of All-Stars such as Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez, but the numbers are still undeniable. While the 2009 team seemed to pack it in and die during the tail-end of the season, this team has continued to fight and improve- a great sign for the future.
Overall, I have been impressed with what we’ve seen from the Tribe’s young talent in these last few months. Young pitchers such as Josh Tomlin, Jeanmar Gomez, and Carlos Carrasco have really stepped up and delivered in the last half of the season. Also, after an abysmal start, Michael Brantley has greatly improved since his August callup, hitting .291 in August, and .286 in September- both promising numbers for the Tribe’s potential leadoff hitter of the future. The continued success of young players such as Brantley, Matt LaPorta, and Carlos Santana (who should be fully healthy for 2011) is vital for this club to compete in the near future. I feel that with what we’ve seen from them, in addition to production from veterans such as Shin-Soo Choo and Travis Hafner (who has hit .331 since the ASB, by the way), the Indians have a good foundation for future success.
Obviously, the team does have its holes to fill- second and third bases are pretty open, as I don’t feel that guys like Jayson Nix, Luis Valbuena, and Jason Donald are legitimate major league options as starters. While there are prominent prospects down on the Farm (e.g., Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis), they are still at least a year away, so the Indians need some kind of stop gap option, especially for the hot corner. Brandon Inge would be a great free agent option, especially given his flexibility, but I feel that he may be out of the Indians’ price range. Perhaps Mr. Antonetti can convince Omar Vizquel to retire on the sunny shores of Lake Erie?
So, with all that said, I am fairly optimistic about the Tribe’s chances for next year. While I don’t think they will be contenders, they could fall somewhere around the .500 mark. I’ve got a feeling they will remind us of the 2004 team- a group starting to come together, perhaps competing for a while, but ultimately falling short of being in the playoff picture. Still, given where we could be, I will take the forward progress, and look towards further success in the future.
Finally, in an unrelated note, I’m pretty intrigued by the NL West/ Wild Card competition. I have loved watching the Padres defy expectations all year, so to see them lose a playoff spot now would be crushing. However, I think Atlanta is absolutely rolling right now, so I don’t see them losing any ground. This series between the Padres and the Giants over the weekend will be a blast to watch, but I have to say that I think the Giants will ultimately pull out the West, with the Braves taking the Wild Card. Book it.