Thursday, June 22, 2006

More tales of terror

I'm really getting sick of writing these venting posts. But the Indians keep forcing my hand.
Tuesday, the clouds parted a bit, and the foolish romantic in me thought that maybe the Indians had just turned a corner. Jason Johnson had been designated for assignment, and the Indians played their best baseball in quite some time in a 4-2 win over the Cubs.
C.C. Sabathia was on the mound Wednesday, and I figured the Tribe had a good shot at taking two of three from the lowly Cubs. Then the coasting Reds come to town, and who knows? You go 4-2 over a six-game stretch, 4-2 becomes 7-4 over the span of 12 days, and next thing you know, you're rolling again.
Silly me. That wasn't the perfume of a fresh start I was smelling. It was cheap cologne.
GM Mark Shapiro is right when he says the Indians' problems are a moving target. Yesterday's strengths are today's weaknesses. There is no consistency.
Case in point: C.C. Sabathia. A month ago, he was the only starting pitcher worth paying attention to. I thought he had finally become the ace he was always supposed to be.
Then the calendar flipped from May to June, and suddenly, inexplicably, C.C. lost everything.
He's 0-3 in June. He followed up a treacherous outing in Milwaukee over the weekend with a brutal outing Wednesday. It all came apart in the third inning. C.C. took the mound with the score tied 1-1, gave up a pair of hits to start the inning, and the hits and runs just kept on coming. A pair of fielding brain cramps by Ben Broussard and Ronnie Belliard didn't help matters.
By the time newly-added Edward Mujica relieved and let the final three runs of the inning cross the plate, it was 9-1 and the game was over.
Keep in mind that heading into this series, the Cubs were the worst offensive club in the National League. The eight-run third on Wednesday was their biggest inning of the year.
Afterward, C.C. said he lost focus. He apologized to everyone he could think of for an outing in which he admittedly just stopped trying.
This is really bad news for the Indians. There have been mumblings around the media that the Indians aren't playing as hard as they should be, but C.C. is the first to admit it.
It's perplexing to watch this team fall apart. This was a team that was mentally tough and valued fundamental baseball the previous two seasons. They withstood a barrage of bullpen collapses two years ago to make a spirited run at the Twins down the stretch. They withstood a limp offense last year to make another spirited second-half run.
This year, all that resolve, all that focus is just gone. This team has zero leadership. Twenty-five players are wandering the desert in 25 different directions.
Is manager Eric Wedge to blame? I don't think he's a very strong day-to-day leader, but he was able to get the job done to some extent in years past. The fact that the team's focus could disintegrate like this still doesn't add up.
Is the loss of Kevin Millwood to blame? Maybe as far as the starting pitching. But what were the other veterans on the team doing last year? Were Bob Wickman, Aaron Boone and Ronnie Belliard exerting no influence whatsoever?
Unfortunately, someone could analyze the Indians' situation for days on end and still not come up with a clear-cut answer. We're not talking about problems that a trade or two can cure, or even a midseason managerial switch. This is a problem with the fabric of the team.
Of all the things the Indians' DiamondVision player analysis computer program can calculate and quantify, the ability to lead apparently isn't one of them.
When Shapiro and his associates dissect this season in October, they might want to start with their own leadership. What are they valuing in players beyond raw baseball skills? What are they valuing in a manager beyond organizational skills?
Somebody, somewhere has to fashion a rudder for this team, if not for the remainder of this year, then for 2007. The front office is a good place to start.

1 comment:

Sussman said...

Deep breaths, Erik. Deep breaths.