Mike Aviles – the only player I kind of enjoyed watching tonight
Even though I knew this game had an early start time, I decided to go to my usual 6 p.m. aerobics class. I figured if the Indians were going to make me miserable (I already had a bad feeling), then I didn’t want to add the feeling of gym-skipping guilt to the mix. As I was leaving the gym, I saw a poster on the door advertising an Indians-sponsored summer baseball camp taking place at the rec center I go to. The sign boasted “Learn to play baseball the Indians way!” “What is the Indians way?” I murmured to myself as I walked through the door. Pathetic at-bats that result in almost no hits or runs? The fact that every opposing pitcher, on almost any given day, looks good enough to rival Cy Young? Defense so bad, most of the kids at this camp could look superior to any of the players on the major league squad? Games that you can write the script for, hours before they ever take place? (Because you know exactly how it’s going to unfold once game time hits). If those facts constitute “the Indians way” then we pretty much saw it play out tonight at Progressive Field. Let’s talk about this mess of a game, that’s equivalent to pretty much every other mess of a game so far in this young season.
For starters, I missed a good hour of this game and still felt like I didn’t really miss anything. Two ridiculous looking errors by Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez that I managed to re-watch once I got home. (I could have lived without seeing them…ever.) A ton of walks by Jason Vargas, who the Indians let off the hook time and time again. Two runs for the Royals, and let’s face it – at this point, two runs are almost enough to beat the Indians. When I got home, I managed to see the Indians’ meager offering of offense – a two-run home run by Mike Aviles. And I saw (yet again) the Indians pull themselves back into the game (on this occasion, to a 2-2- tie) only to surrender response runs almost immediately. Once the Royals pulled into the lead, and Vargas left the game, I knew this was over. With the back end of the Royals bullpen, there was no way this Indians team was scoring off of them. I mean, if they can’t score off of Vargas, a pitcher they’ve had success against in the past, they’re not doing anything against the Royals’ big three.
There are a lot of things about the Indians right now that are depressing to me. Some players are doing almost comically bad – Michael Bourn, Jose Ramirez, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Brandon Moss (outside of a few games) almost cause me physical pain when I have to watch them hit. Every time I think to myself “there’s no place to go but up from here!” they find a new and creative way to go down even further. They only got 4 hits tonight; three against Vargas, who had a 6.75 ERA coming into this game. To put that in perspective, they had three errors tonight. Their number of hits almost matched their number of errors. Consider Ramirez, who committed his fourth error so far this season tonight (in 15 games played), had just 4 errors in 2014 in 56 games played at the majors. Errors can be subjective (at the whim of the official scorer) but Ramirez is much worse in advanced metrics like defensive runs saved and UZR as well. I know everyone immediately pulls their “Francisco Lindor to the majors now” card when Ramirez’s struggles are discussed, but Lindor was struggling himself at Columbus. Until recently, he was batting under .200 himself (he’s now up to .284).
I know that it’s still early in the season, we’re not even through April yet. But when do we stop saying “well, it’s still early?” Because let’s face it – if the Indians do manage to turn this around, this will still burn them later. (And at this point, I feel like that’s a big “if” – they look so bad and just seem lost right now). This is the kind of April where you sit around in September and think “what if” as you try to imagine them having just a few extra early season wins. The Indians currently have the worst record in the American League; they’d have the worst in the majors if it wasn’t for the Milwaukee Brewers. (As IPL contributor and Brewers fan Lee Kluck said, if these two teams don’t improve, their interleague series later this summer will be “precious.”)
At this point, this isn’t even a fun team to watch. I feel like I say some variation of this every year – I don’t need to see a win every night, but I do need to see watchable baseball. This team isn’t even watchable for me right now. I’d rather clean my kitchen, or reorganize my closet, or get a root canal, rather than pay attention to this team. You hope that they’ll be able to turn this around, that many of them are just pressing at this point and once they get going, they’ll go. But some of these problems don’t seem easily solvable to me. The Indians are never going to be a team that looks good defensively, but can they at least manage to not look like a dumpster fire every day? Let’s face it, some of these players may never be great offensively (I’m looking at you Chisenhall and Ramirez) but can they at least be decent? Can they have at-bats that look like they belong to actual major league baseball players?
What’s sad is that when tonight’s broadcast showed Nick Swisher all smiling and bro-ing from the locker room, I missed him. I really, really missed him. Because he’s probably not the answer to any of these questions…but at least he’s something different. I can at least fantasize, that by some miracle, he’ll look like the Swisher of a few years ago and could provide somewhat of a jolt to this lineup. Because let’s face it; at this point we’re just trying to choose between the lesser of several evils for much of the Indians lineup. Essentially the textbook example for the saying “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” When things have gotten that bad, almost anyone hitting above .200 will seem like an improvement.