Let me say at the outset, there is nothing in the all-pervasive sports world I want to see more than an Indians World Series championship. Ok, that’s done.
I’ve spent years defending the Dolan family and their ownership of the Indians. I admittedly wasn’t thrilled with them in the first few years after they bought the team. Or, early in their tenure when they raised ticket prices while taking the team off basic TV/cable really infuriated me. But, over the past decade I’ve largely been pleased with them. They didn’t shrink from spending the necessary money at the right time. The signings of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, though they mostly fizzled in Cleveland except for September of 2013 when Swisher virtually carried the team to the postseason, at least the Dolans were willing to spend the money. And the signing of Edwin Encarnacion two years ago thrilled me and signaled that the team who’d come ONE run from winning a World Series just got better. And at the price tag of $20 million a year I was thrilled the Dolans pulled the trigger.
But today, I can only say I’m saddened and as of now do not believe they should own this team. I’ve appreciated the way in which Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff have run the organization, in a less self-promotional manner than Mark Shapiro and John Hart before them. And it’s obvious by now that it was Paul Dolan’s decision to carve up the team and its payroll. Yet, we had a window after 2016 of at least three seasons (including 2019!) but ownership has denied us.
There is something admittedly refreshing, if concurrently maddening, about Dolan’s pronouncements about the obstacles mid-market teams face and the lack of parity in Major League Baseball. But the timing for this half-assed tank job (which is another part of the problem, do it all the way or don’t do it) couldn’t be worse for the Indians as Browns fever has so captured the region’s imagination and sports discourse that anything short of a spectacular year will become roadkill on the way to the Browns’ taking the field.
As far as the upcoming season, well our starters MUST stay healthy. And that hasn’t exactly been the standard for the last few years. Beyond our starting pitching staff, our team is average at best. Our best hitter from last year is gone. Baseball’s most consistent home run & RBI producer for the last six years? Gone. Our All-Start catcher: gone (replaced by one of the statistically worst hitting catchers in the history of the game). Yandy Diaz had the makings of a great hitter, even if his power numbers were never going to match his physique. He too is gone.
So, is there anything to be hopeful about? Well the AL Central is still weak so that gives us a better than average chance to win. Our starting rotation is as good as any in baseball. A healthy Leonys Martin will definitely help in center. Maybe Jake Bauers will emerge as a great ballplayer. And of course, we still have Terry Francona. I don’t know if he’s the best manager in the game, though I can’t think of an obvious better one, and I have a large degree of faith in him.
In the end, if you’re a baseball fan, the reason for optimism is due to a pure love of the game. Whether you’re sitting in the stands or on your couch or atop a local bar stool reveling in the warm weather, it’s still baseball season and we have to root our team on no matter what ownership is doing.