It's gonna be a long walk home

The Indians are on the road this week, playing two in Toronto and two in Boston.

Me? I’m in Cleveland, which disrupts my ability to provide you with the lineups and daily pregame minutia.

But feel free to keep the discussion of all things Tribe going in the comments section below. Where do you think this team, out the gate with a 9-16 start, is headed this season?

I’ll say this much: It’s going to be impossible to put together a prolonged winning streak unless the Indians get more reliable performances from their setup men. And even when and if that problem is solved, the shakiness on the defensive end and the continuing struggles with men in scoring position are potential cripplers, as well.

It’s certainly early enough to right this thing — especially in a division led by a 14-11 club — but it all starts with that back end of the ‘pen and it must start right about… now.

42 Comments

Another nice Boss reference in the title. The Tribe is really stuggling, but you know that Wedge will find a way.

First off not one Indians fan can claim to be excited about this season.

Is this really the team we have to watch for the next 5 months? If it is, then Dolan and Shapiro can be sure to look forward to 25,000+ empty seats at home games this year.

This team looks beyond disinterested, something needs to wake them up. Never have I been a fan of calling for a man’s job, but Wedge has to do something to wake this team up. I don’t know whom he would can but he might have to. I’m assuming Derek Shelton, seeing as how this is the second year in a row our offense has gotten off to a horrendous start. Only this year we don’t have the injury excuse. If this continues though, Wedge has to go. Has to. Playoffs are not the norm under this man. But more importantly fans are not going to be going to Indian games and upper management may realize that they need to do something to fill seats. Does this mean Hargrove could be back? A man that shouldn’t have been fired in the first place? I don’t know, but you can’t argue with either his passion for the Indians and his track record with them.

The team trying to make up the Hafner excuse of, “It’s only been seven months since his shoulder surgery, give him some time” makes me want to break furniture. How could they even try and pass that off as an excuse to the loyal fans when clearly Hafner should have had surgery in May of last year?

I don’t think this team will do anything until they start learning their roles, which comes with Wedge not drastically altering the lineup each and everyday, and Wedge admitting that it was stupid to fire Louis Isaac. He fired his bullpen coach and his bullpen has promptly imploded. Wedge should get no sympathy for his bullpen not pitching well.

I wonder once Scott Lewis is healthy if they put him in the bullpen? Isn’t that where he’s spent most of his pitching career – collegiate and minor league? We’ve got Laffey & Sowers and they both have been up before. I just don’t understand why you bump two guys in favor of one who had 24 innings of major league experience coming into this season? I think finding a guy who can go two innings, specifically in the 6-7 innings area, is crucial. All these other guys have been 8th/9th inning guys or R/L guys.

strummer 787, you might be one of the smartest people i know. im in full agreement with everything you said. i like you would never wish somebody their job, but at the same time with the indians talent you have to question, “what’s the problem?” and never have i been so aggravated until i read the article (cant remember the source) where wedge is throwing the team under the bus, saying “we need leadership”. YOU DONT SAY WEDGE!!!! THATS YOU BUDDY, YOU”RE THE LEADER!!! gosh, gets me so flustered. and the other comment you made strummer about flip-flopping the lineup every single day. ive never understood that. i understand ‘having’ to make moves, but doing it out of recreation, doesnt make much sense to me. i dont see how a player can get comfortable and into a groove when he’s being benched and moved throughout the season. IE: KELLY SHOPPACH! why that hasnt come as a staple yet, blows my mind yet. shoppach behind the plate, victor at first….we’re all happy. and one final thought: sipp>lewis/bettancourt/whoever else you might think should take the 8th inning slot. seriously wedge.

Yeah, strummer787, you had me at “not one Indians’ fan can claim to b excited about this season.”
It’s amazing at how easily this team disgusts me. There’s just no sense of enthusiasm from the players, it seems.
Now, I completely understand why that is. Each aspect of the team probably feels like the other lets them down and that has to get frustrating. But Wedge should be getting them past that. This team lacks passion.
Again, though, I can see why. I’m sure the hitters get tired of watching their leads disappear just as I’m sure the pitchers get tired of watching the bases left loaded.

Uhm, no offense AC, but don’t you get the entire winter off practically. And you get to spend your summer traveling to beautiful and exotic locations like Kansas City and Arlington, TX! I mean come on, how many days off does a guy need?

One thing the organization has been right about is that the poor play results directly from inconsistency. However, that inconsistency isnt just coming on the performance end. More importantly, it is coming in the form of inconsistent game management. While not one reliever (except Sipp) has performed well enough to be that eighth inning guy, none of them have truly been given a consistent chance. Wedge is trying a new guy in a new role every day, managing games like you would like a manager to manage, IN SPRING TRAINING! Although Betancourt has struggled, his ERA has been inflated significantly by poor defense (Choo at Yankee Stadium, DeRosa on Thursday night, just to name a few) and even more so by the inherited runners that have been charged to him after he is relieved. He was our guy in 2007 and should be our guy again (again, last year he was dominant before Wedge made him the closer. Inconsistency in his role was the problem). But if Betancourt is our 8th inning guy, he cannot also be our guy in the seventh. He (even in ’07) has always been a one-inning reliever. Putting him into multiple innings is asking for a mistake to be sent into the seats (how good was he in the seventh on saturday? how about the eighth). Jensen Lewis is being put into similar situations. He is another reliever who has been put into inconsistent roles. Take Thursday: He pitched okay to get out of the eighth with only a tie and pitched great in the ninth against the heart of the order. Good job, night over. No, Wedge puts him in for a third inning (twice sitting down=3 innings, no matter how many outs a reliever gets) and wham, one mistake and we lose. Consistency cannot come with inconsistent decisions. This was the problem last year, albeit caused by injuries for the most part, and is becoming the problem now. Consistent roles allowed the 2nd half of last year and the entire ’07 season to happen like it did. We arent out of the race yet, but if we dont get some consistency from our players, our coaches, and especially our manager, we have already thrown our chances away.

csusi… I totally agree with you. I’m learning this is a tough team to have a love affair with especially when they don’t get a chance to play consecutively and consistently. But if they can stick it out and start getting it all to work togeter.
Anthony, I’ll miss you’re writing about/at/during the games, but enjoy your time off from traveling, you deserve it!

It all starts with the bullpen. If the bullpen can get straightened out (I am having my doubts), then everything will fall into place. Going through the pen, we have Lewis who is leaving everything UP in the zone, throwing 90mph fastballs down the pipe. Betancourt (when will he start pitching to the inside of the plate)? Perez I am convinced will right the ship. Kobayashi seems to be a bust although he did pitch a 1-2-3 yesterday. Believe it or not, the best reliever we have had so far (aside from our closer) is None other than VINNIE CHULK. Is it Wedge’s fault that his pen isn’t producing? Is it bad scouting? You decide.

My apologies, Tony Sipp has been dominating from the left side.

If you are looking for a bullpen turnaround I may have bad news for you. And that is Eric Wedge makes the bullpen decisions. Lets look back into the future…

Wedge became manager in 2003. We were 68-94 that year, but, then, we were in admitted rebuilding mode and if you were expecting a good year that year you should be institutionalized, so I’m giving that team a pass.

But in 2004, we were good. People forget but at one point that year we were 63-56 and two games out. Then the roof caved and we lost 11 of the next 13 season was over, and that was before the 22-0 game at Old Yankee. I remember then Wedge mishandling the bullpen, with Wickman back there being his only 100% sure thing. No consistency before that.

In 2005, a year we were awesome and Wedge had an awesome year as a manager. We all felt good about him. But, he might’ve been just lucky his bullpen was good. Remember Bob Howry? Remember Arthur Rhodes? Our bullpen players established themselves and Wedge didn’t have to make any brain-busting decisions. He had veteran guys who had career years.

Wait, what? We had bullpen players establishing themselves and Wedge wasn’t making any brain-busting decisions? He had veteran guys who had career years?

Welcome to 2007! Perez, Betancourt, a heart attack inducing Borowski, and an underrated and always reliable Tom Mastny!

2006 and 2008 required a manager with good bullpen sensibilities and we didn’t have that. Now in 2009 we don’t. We could win with these guys as long as our manager knew how to manage them. But he doesn’t know how too unless he has two people that have career years and he doesn’t have to make tough and wise decisions. Not throwing stuff at a wall to see if it sticks.

strummer787, you lost me at “underrated and always reliable Tom Mastny.”

I wrote similar thoughts in a postgame thread but I am going to revise and extend my remarks, with two major points.
1) This season is far from over at this point but if the Indians don’t straighten things out it is going to get late early.
2) This team needs to be shaken up, the easiest way I can see that happening is letting Eric Wedge go.

Point 1) This season is far from over. We are not playing at all well I grant you but we are not even close to too far gone in the standings (as of now only 5 games back). The Indians have had one of the more difficult first half schedules in baseball and the road gets easier in the second half which should help us out. We certainly have the talent on our team currently to win and to make the playoffs, what we need is some luck and for things to start clicking (in numerous areas of the game).

Point 2) I have never been one to judge manager performance as they know a lot more about the game than me and a lot more about the players day to day injuries wear and tear etc. Additionally I have never in my life called for the firing of a coach of a team that I followed…until now. I feel that the time has come for a change. Like I said this season isn’t far gone yet but something needs to be done to shake this team up. Due to the nature of baseball it isn’t like we can fire the players or dock their pay. Someone needs to shake this team up and if Wedge does it and goes on a 5 game win streak good for him, but as of now Wedge clearly isn’t havn’t much success at said shake up. We have only won 1 series all year. I say again 1 series. ONE!!!!1! Further this isn’t the 1st time we have seen Wedge under perform with great talent. I for one would like to see a new manager brought in, just to see if it can light a fire under these guys butts. No hard feelings Wedge, I like you as a person but it is time to shape up or ship out.

p.s. Pedro wouldn’t mind working for peanuts and being a bullpen guy, would he? (just to be clear, the p.s. is sarcasm)

Oh and AC I agree with christopher, it seems like you get a huge amount of time off over the course of the year. Hey I am not knocking it because if I could get that much vacation time I would use it too. My question is this, can i get whoever wrote your contract to come and write my next one.

While I can’t really fault Eric Wedge on the bullpen (HOWEVER-I can fault him on his usage of the bullpen), I think letting Wedge go is just what the doctor order. Right now nothing is clicking. And maybe by firing him things still won’t click, but you can’t obviously fire the players, so the manager is the one who takes the blame.

Wait – did I just see PASSION from our guys in the 7th??
LaPorta’s call up really paid off here, not just because of the obvious (the game tying homer), but because it seems like Ben Francisco is trying to rise to the challenge. It seemed like he would have stolen his way all the way to third had Grady not knocked him over!
And let’s not forget Ryan “I should be playing every day” Garko starting it off.
Good to see some enthusiasm from our team at last.

And Carmona and Vernon Wells send the passion back from whence it came.

You know, I could actually understand Wedge’s pain tonight. He’s basically got Sipp and Wood. An argument could be made that if he had another solid reliever, he would have pulled Fausto after the second out. You could almost sense him thinking “please get through this inning — I don’t have enough relievers for more than two innings of work.”
Sure enough, Sipp continues to pitch well.

I’m curious how everyone likes the Derosa trade now. Hitting .236 and on pace for over 30 errors, while Jeff Stevens has an ERA of 0 for the Cubs AAA team. Seemed like a bad idea at the time, and it was a bad idea

And again, how can it be that the two best relievers on the team, ERA-wise, started the year in the minors? Are they completely incapable of evaluating bullpen talent?

Wow. This is getting so painful to watch. Yet AGAIN one aspect of our game doesn’t show up. Have we had a game yet this season where we actually get good starting, timely hitting, and good relief? One of them always fails to show up.

Can someone please explain to me why Rafael Perez is still in the bullpen? He has to be the worst reliver in MLB. Has he come in yet this year and not given up a hit? How many more chances is Wedge going to give him? With all the problems the pitching is having this year I am starting to question the if the pitching coach is doing anything to help the situation. It is time wedge stepped up to the plate himself. He needs to do something to shake this team up.

why isn’t Perez in the minors? They should’ve kept Rundles, sent down Perez

I just checked Rafael’s ERA….13.94. That’s the kind of pitcher I would want to come in and really shut the opposing team down.

Anyone else think that, after the performances we saw at the plate tonight, we might see Barfield at second and Cabrera at short tomorrow?

I’m sure Willis would love to be fired. Any team in baseball would hire him for big money — he’s coached the last two Cy Young winners in the AL.

For that matter, I’m sure Shelton would love to be fired, too. The Tribe is 5th in runs in the AL, 7th in the all of baseball, which is also where they finished last year. They’re also 4th in the AL in on base percentage.
I’m sure Shelton would have no problems getting big bucks somewhere else with numbers like that.

I made no claims as to whether or not Willis or Shelton are “doing their jobs.” I just pointed out that they both have pretty impressive resumes that would make it easy for them to get jobs elsewhere, most likely for more money.
It’s called looking at the facts logically.
And, yes, very good, California is on the left side of the map.

For that matter, why is Willis only responsible for the pitching when it’s bad? If he’s responsible for it when it’s bad, he’s also responsible for it when it’s good.

I agree with tribetime1 Cliff and CC won those awards with talent. Please. That’s the most redundant thing I have ever heard. How else do you win awards? “LeBron James just won the NBA MVP because of his talent.”

No one should fire Willis. Shelton is a different story. Last year the Indians got off to a horrendous start on offense. Remember that string of incredible starting pitching performances completely wasted by horrific offense. He got lucky that a rookie came in an got a big home run. Let’s hope that homer gets a little juice flowing and it looked like it did. Yesterday was easily the most satisfying win of the season. Especially seeing as how Wood blew it in the 9th. I thought that put the team back a week. Luckily Barfield (?!) had a big game. Why not play him today? What did he do last night to not get a start today? Another problem with this team is the long ball. They live and die by the homer and right now they aren’t hitting any. Sizemore isn’t hitting a lot, especially Peralta, Garko isn’t but I would like to see him play more, Choo hasn’t gotten in a groove yet, Shoppach isn’t doing much, and I don’t expect Asdrubal to hit many.

Very secretly this teams starting pitching, with the notable exception of Saturday, has actually been much MUCH better this past week. And the team makes a good point in saying that pretty much every game this past week, starting with the BoSox series, the Indians have been right there. Which is part of the reason this season has been so frustrating.

Man I love this blog. So many passionate people, some more logical and intelligent than others but great conversation nonetheless. Love it. We can speculate all we want about dumping Wedge, Willis, Shelton, Shapiro, et. al but no one expected Cleveland to come firing out the gates at a .385 winning percentage and 5 games back after the first 26 ballgames. We ALL know what is going to happen with this management. Dolan won’t fire Shapiro. Therefore Shapiro won’t fire Wedge and his partners in crime. The organization thinks this start to the season is not representative of our talent level so they will ride it out and pray that May brings a better month than the 8-14 April. Because on June 1 if we are 16-28 I could then see major changes happening. Right about now I am simply hoping for a .500 record by the end of May.

we would have to go 16-10 over the next 26 games to get back to .500. I don’t see that happening because as we all have said, we can never get two aspects of our team performing well at the same time let alone three. As for the Shelton/Willis argument: we have 140 RS and 153 RA. Only the Yankees (159) and the Orioles (165) have given up more runs. Our bullpen is a cluster@#$% and it doesn’t look like it is going to miraculously turn around over night, which is why I made the Rundles and Meloan comment for Perez and Lewis, specifically based on the 40-man roster eligibility.

Shapiro doesn’t deserve to be fired, EVER. I am always impressed with what he is capable of doing given the market he must operate in. Granted the organization has been a tad weak developing it’s own talent but that has too do with what it does in the draft. For my money drafting Lonnie Chisenhall was an awesome decision and they put a lot of money into him. This is a (supposed) great talent that teams avoided because he committed grand larceny and burglary. How awesome is that? I can’t wait for him to make the bigs and have to hear the announcers on FOX and ESPN or MLB Network re-tell that story.

I have a feeling that the Dolan’s master plan is to eventually promote Shapiro to Team President and give Antonetti the GM position.

I have no problem with that.

strummer, I like your analysis. You are obviously a knowledgeable, intelligent, passionate fan. You bring something to the blog conversation. HOWEVER, a few of your comments strike me as ignorant and plagiaristic for lack of better words. Unfortunately, I must call you out.

First off, despite the market size Shapiro has signed more bad contracts than good ones. In a smaller market like Cleveland you cannot continually afford to miss on free agents like you can in New York. His allocation of money is quite often perplexing. It’s not only the money he gives out but the length that confuses fans and media like. We can discuss these contracts if you like (Millwood, Gonzalez part I and part II, Dellucci, Kobayashi, + many more).

Secondly, Shapiro is in charge of the draft. You can partially blame the scouts within the organization but ultimately the decision is up to Mark. If you want to blame the scouts then you also have to comment that Shapiro continues to keep them on board despite missing on prospects. The past 2-3 drafts it looks as if he may have hit on some early round talent (Mills, Hodges, Chisenhall) In the last decade there have been only a very small sample size of drafted prospects to affect the major league ballclub (at all) and an even smaller sample that has significantly affected the roster for an extended period. Sabathia being the most noted player.

Third, and most importantly considering you imply that your “master plan” is something that is groundbreaking information. The fact that Chris Antonetti was given a promotional title, increased pay, AND a contractual guarantee from the organization to replace Mark Shapiro let EVERYONE know that Antonetti would take over for Mark Shapiro in the near future. Antonetti was being courted by the Mariners and Cardinals for their GM spots. The Indians wanted to keep their lineage in house. Quality GMs have come from the John Hart/Mark Shapiro tree (O’Dowd, Huntington, etc).

I meant what I said. Your analysis is great. But do not try to pass off information as your own like you’re telling a story to your friends that do not know the key players. We here are uber Tribe fans. I was not born yesterday and your attempt to build up your credibility and/or ego simply insults my intelligence.

I forgot to mention, Shapiro severely overvalues his own talent but appears to be able to correctly ***** the talent on other teams. His drafts are terrible, his trades are (typically) well regarded within baseball as being the best (aside from B-Phillips). But when he gets the praise he must also get the criticism.

wow, they won’t let you write ***** e s s ? How about “evaluate the talent”?

AM, you know I generally agree with you, but I think you were overly harsh towards strummer787. And I don’t think he plagiarized anything from anywhere.
Personally, I think there’s a lot of debate that can be had about Shapiro’s decisions. I think that’s definitely something to talk about, but right now I feel like it’s something to talk about later on. The team we have is the team we have and I’m more concerned about getting them to win, and I think they lack passion, which comes from Wedge on down.
The “grind it out every day” attitude was great for the ’07 team, but this group is different. They need a motivator.

a previous commenter made the best analogy about Wedge: 7 years ago he was perhaps the best man for the job considering our youth movement. Now, he isn’t the right match for this team. Perhaps I was harsh but the Antonetti thing bothered me.

NOt one Indian fan exited about this team – I have been waiting since ’48! I get exited every year – and I stay that way until the All-Star break! All they need is RPitching. If they get their Rafaels straight it Go Tribe!

Boy, did strummer787 hit it on the nose. Sheldon has to go. I have watched hitters go for the 5 run HR with two strikes too many times in the last two years. What has happened to shortening the swing and making contact? …and Grady is one of the worst doing that. I pay approx $160 a year to watch Indians games on DirecTV Extra Innings. What a waste! Again, the fault untimately lies with Dolan. He doesn’t care about this team. I watched his brother destroy the NY Knicks and he is working on destroying Madison Sq Garden. Brother Steve must be cut from the same mold. I have been a from-afar Indians fan for 59 years. I will always be an Indians fan, but this year, it is really hard. Especially, with so many high expectations at the beginning of the year.

Some thoughtful comments preceded my first. …and my apologies to the hitting coach with the misspelling of his last name (but I do think that he should go). As strummer787 said, I believe Willis should be given another short chance. He has done well in the past with all pitching. My thoughts on Wedge is, “if he is fired, who replaces him that will lead this team to contend this season? If a premium, proven winner is not available, I say “bite the bullet” for this season and replace him in ’10. That way, the new and experienced manager can establish his/her philosophy from free agency (oh, forget that the Indians seldom participate in free agency). OK then, spring training. Can we fire the owner? Look at the empty seats! He complains about being a small market. Why were we not a small market in the late ’90s and early 2000s? The stadium was full every game. Contend and watch how fast we become a “large” market. Oh, by the way, s_habecker@comcast, are you from the Rochester, NY area? I had a high school friend named Steve Habecker. Just wondering. Russ from Brooklyn

Hey, sanderslopez, how many times since 1960 have you been excited past the all-star break? Maybe you could count the times on the fingers of one hand. I don’t go back to 1948, but I do go back to 1950. My Father had tickets to the fifth game of the WS in 1954; that 4th game loss was devastating to a 13 year old kid who wanted to see in person his team beat up on the Giants. My whole baseball-fan career has been influenced by the hated Johnny Antonellis and Dusty Rhodes (oh yes, Jose Mesa, too) of the world. I grew up in Rochester, NY and Antonelli owned a tire distribution business there. I would never buy tires from that place. Love this blog site! I can get 59 years of frustration vented a little. Russ from Brooklyn

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