It wasn’t too terribly long ago that the Cleveland Indians seemed like one of the most solid franchises in baseball. Before the Red Sox took over that aspect of the game the Indians were setting records for consecutive sellouts. And although the Indians have not won the World Series since 1948, there was a stretch when they qualified for the playoffs regularly and they did play in the 1997 Series.
OK, so that was 15 years ago. But Cleveland was a contender. Then things fell apart, the team drifted to the bottom of the American League Central Division standings and attendance at home games started to resemble Wednesday night’s attendance at the Sugar Bowl, which translates to “Good seats still available.”
Now Indians management has decided to do something about the recent slide. I’m not sure how these things get started, but all of a sudden we get presented with teams seeking to change their image. From entering spring training already doomed, instead we have them shouting, “Hey, look at us!” Does one guy sitting in the president’s chair have an epiphany? Does he erupt and announce to his friends, family, fans and the world at large that he is sick of how things are going and gosh-darn he’s going to do something about it?
Does it take years of embarrassment, after a team has been run into the ground, for someone to step up and say they’re committed to something new and declare loudly, “We’re going to try to win!”
In any case, it appears that the Cleveland Indians might be trying to win again. Bob Feller is dead, so he isn’t going to help, and Lou Boudreau is gone, too, so they’re going to have to be creative by the lake. The first indication that things might be different in the coming years was the hiring of Terry Francona as manager. Francona never wanted to leave the Boston Red Sox. He never wanted to leave managing. But you’ve gotta think that when the Indians came to him and they had to make some promises indicating this new program was in the offing. If I’m Terry Francona with a couple of World Series titles on my resume, I’m thinking I can wait around for the right job to come to me. Yet he decided that the Cleveland Indians was the right job. That should tell us something right there.
Being new to this whole thing of making personnel decisions that might actually improve the team, the Indians have not made any free agent signings that caused an earthquake in the sport. But they have made several small moves that could be interpreted as attempts at upgrading. This week they’re signing right hander Brett Myers. A few weeks ago they traded for Cincinnati’s Drew Stubbs, who may benefit from the change of scenery. They also signed free agents Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds. Swisher finally passed his physical Wednesday.
Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw and Trevor Bauer have been added to the pitching staff, but a lot of the roster tweaking the Indians accomplished demonstrated a commitment to and faith in some of their younger players they believe are Major League-ready. If the Indians are correct they could end up as the 2013 Baltimore Orioles. If they are wrong they may still flounder around in the middle of the division.