I'm often asked, if one of the Cleveland teams could win a championship first, who would you want it to be?
Obviously, a flaw exists in the question; right now, I doubt anyone in Cleveland cares who does it first - they just hope they're alive to see it done.
Still, my favorite sport is baseball, and my favorite team is the Indians. I was too young to really remember them being terrible in the late 80's-early 90's (and, of course, not even alive for the 30 or so years before then), and then the Browns left, and the Cavs stunk...well, it was easy to fall in love with the Tribe. Especially those teams in the mid-90's, with Omar, Sandy, Charlie, Thome, Kenny, Manny; those were fun and magical times, and we expected them to last forever.
That's why the disappointment of this season has affected me so much. I have never, ever, ever, given up on an Indians team before. Not even the rebuilding a few years ago killed my passion. I had faith that we would be back. Now, the most painful words I've written...
I've officially given up on the 2006 Cleveland Indians.
As I'm writing this, we (they) are losing 5-1 to the California-Anaheim-Los Angeles Angels. We (they) have lost four of five since the All-Star break and could very well (gasp!) find themselves battling KC to stay out of the cellar (only nine and a half games and shrinking with every Aaron Boone error!)
Here is a statistical analysis of the 2006 Cleveland Indians through 92 games this season. We'll start with the positives (aka "mostly offensive") then go onto the negatives (aka "everything else"):
The Tribe has the third highest batting average in the majors (.283), third highest slugging percentage (.465) and sixth best on-base percentage (.350). We (damnit, they!) have scored the fourth most runs (565), hit the second most doubles (192) and the clubbed the fifth most homers (123). And our pitching staff is tied for second with the most shutouts (8) and complete games (5), while allowing the fourth-fewest walks (253).
Ahh, but that pitching staff...
It ranks 22nd in ERA (4.75). It's allowed the tenth most runs (471). It has the second fewest saves (14, and not Bob Wickman's fault at all - the Indians have made it possible for the 280-pound closer to be invisible). Opponents are batting .280 against Tribe pitchers, the fifth worst mark in the bigs. And when those runners get on base, boy oh boy... 78 stolen bases allowed, with only the Padres (with Mike Piazza and former Indians standout Josh Bard behind the plate) worse.
Another major problem has been the defense, which sometimes reminds me of the Solon Rec baseball team I coach. Sadly (for both the Indians and my team) that's not a compliment. A .979 fielding percentage ties for second-worst, and the team has committed the sixth most errors (71). With a team that plays defense so poorly, it would help if the pitching staff could strike out more batters so that less balls were put into play. Unfortunately, that's not the case, as Tribe pitchers have struck out just 532 batters, the second fewest in the league.
But hey, at least the Indians have that offense! It keeps them close in those tight games by doing the little things such as bunting runners over and stealing bases. Whoops, no it doesn't! Cleveland has the fewest sacrifice hits (bunts and flies) and the second fewest stolen bases.
Whew. After re-reading the last few paragraphs, I realize why the Indians stink this year. One list of positives, three of negatives. And as I'm writing, the Tribe now trails the Angels 6-2 in the seventh after being gifted a run. Jhonny Peralta just blew an inning-ending double play.
But why would that surprise me? This Indians team has made me expect the worse, because frankly, that's where they belong this year.