Back in March, I wrote a post called “Four Story Lines to Watch This Season.” During Spring Training, everyone is filled with hope and optimism and looking toward the future. Sometimes the story lines we think will be important turn out to be footnotes to other trends and stories that emerge during the season. (I mean, most Tribe fans have come to expect some sort of collapse, but who expected such a legendary collapse? Who expected Chris Perez to start spewing both on and off the mound?) As we wait for the Indians to make their new managerial choice, I thought I’d take a minute to look back at what, in March, looked to be key elements of the 2012 season and see how they turned out.
1. Will Grady Sizemore come back from yet another injury?
He did not. He rehabbed all season long, finally in late August, the Indians announced that he had lingering pain in his right knee and would not be returning during the 2012 season. While the Indians have said they aren’t ruling out having him (and the oft-injured Travis Hafner) on a reduced contract, that strikes me as Chris Antonetti being polite in public. As much as I appreciated Sizemore as a player, I can’t see him returning unless it’s for a tiny contract with loads of incentives. Personally, I think even that would be a waste of money. Sadly, I think this story ends on a sad note.
2. Will the real Roberto Hernandez please stand up?
The pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona did return to the Indians. He came back on July 21 and served a three-week suspension, pitching for the Class A Lake County Captains and AAA Columbus Clippers. He made his first major league start under his real name on August 15 against the Angels and immediately proved Thomas Wolfe correct: you can’t go home again. He made three starts for the Tribe, pitching a total of 14.1 innings with a 7.53 ERA. His last start was August 27; a sore right ankle kept him from finishing the season. It’s hard to tell if we saw the “real” Roberto Hernandez in those three games or not. He gave up 5 earned runs in his first start, 4 in his second, and 3 in his third, so in theory, he improved a bit in each start. The Indians have a $6 million option on Hernandez for 2013. I’m going to guess the Tribe keeps him around at least through the beginning of next season. The Roberto Hernandez story continues and may yet have a happy ending.
3. Can Ubaldo Jimenez live up to the hype (and survive the scrutiny?)
Uhhhh… No. Jimenez went 9-17 in 2012, giving him the most losses of any American League pitcher. He also led the American League in wild pitches. Oddly enough, this is the second time he’s earned such a dubious honor. He led the National League in wild pitches in 2010–the year he went 19-8. So he’s wild when he’s pitching well too. Is this reason to hope he’ll improve next year? Maybe. The Indians have a $5.75 million option on him with a $1 million buyout for 2013 and an $8 million option (and $1 million buyout) for 2014. In both cases, the “option cost escalates based on Cy Young results.” I’m pretty sure that won’t be an issue, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s back in 2013. I think the Jimenez story has at least one more chapter in Cleveland.
4. The redemption of Manny Acta
The biggest surprise around Acta wasn’t that he was fired but that he was fired with only six games left in the season rather than after the Indians’ worst losing streak since 1931 or an after an August where they went 5-24 or at the end of the season. While he didn’t prove himself to be a successful manager in Cleveland, he did prove himself to be a decent man with a ton of baseball smarts. When he was fired, the general reaction seemed to be less “Good riddance” than “Well, he had to go, but nobody else could have done much with this team either.” If you can’t leave with a winning record, leaving with some respect and semblance of dignity isn’t bad. The Manny story is done in Cleveland but will undoubtedly continue elsewhere.