I imagine the Indians season shaping up like this: Chris Antonetti walks me into a room, sits me down next to a small table. He explains to me the perception of the 2012 Cleveland Indians. He tells me of their slim pre-season chances of making the playoffs, but also mentions how they get off to a hot start. He includes the fact that Derek Lowe starts the season 6-1 with a ERA near 2.00, and he also shows me numbers that point to the Indians having one of the most productive middle infields in all of baseball. Everything seems to point to a successful season despite the odds.

He then offers me two pills: One blue, the other is red. He tells me that if I just want to wake up and pretend this season never happened, I should take the blue pill; however, if I really want to know how the 2012 Cleveland Indians finish, I will need to take the red pill. As I quickly reach towards the red pill, he offers one final warning:

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill — the season ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep this Indians season really goes.”

I reach out, taking the red pill. What happens next, we now know: The Indians get off to a good start, finding themselves in the race for the AL Central crown until the All-Star break. Cleveland is well represented at the All-Star Game by Asdrubal Cabrera and Chris Perez, and the team looks poised to continue their run of good play into the second half; however, reality sets in early on in July, and the true talent of the roster comes out. The Indians sputter out of the gate to begin the second half, with a record of 6-13 in their first 19 games after the break. Once dependable players such as Johnny Damon and Josh Tomlin are relegated to bench and bullpen roles. Key starters Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Travis Hafner continue to struggle, bringing the team down further. At least a couple games against Minnesota and Kansas City would right the ship, right?

Unfortunately, no. The Indians were swept by the Twins, and to add insult to injury allowed the Royals to beat them on consecutive nights with tonight’s 5-2 loss. That may not sound like much, but if you consider that the Royals had not won two games in a row in over a month (the last occasion was on June 29th) you can start to see why their playoff hopes have eroded to nothing.

Although Zach McAllister gave up five runs (4 ER on 5 hits), he was able to labor through six innings and continue to impress me. If the Indians were in a “must-win” situation right this second, McAllister gets the ball if I am the manager, hands down. He is just the most effective starter currently in the rotation. Also, I just realized that I wrote that I was “impressed” by a 6 Innings Pitched 5 Runs allowed stat-line. It is getting that bad.

Anyway, the Royals outfield did most of their damage, as Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, and Jarrod Dyson tallied 5 of the Royals 6 hits in the game. The Indians did get a solo home-run from Carlos Santana (If you would have told me prior to the season started that it would take Carlos Santana until August 1st to hit 10 home runs, I would have bet you a million dollars. Yes, I was that confident going into 2012.) but aside from that the offense remained quiet as Luis Mendoza kept them in check. Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez both ended up working an inning each in order to stay fresh, as neither of them had thrown since last Thursday.

Maybe if I had taken the blue pill, I would not have gotten my hopes up.

Two Quick Thoughts:

1.) Rottino over Fedroff- As reported from a variety of sources, Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner was placed onto the paternity list this afternoon. Columbus outfielder Vinnie Rottino was recalled to take Hafner’s spot. In all fairness, Rottino certainly was playing well in AAA this season (8HR, 57RBI, .304 AVG. between the Mets and Indians this season); however, he is 32, and has never had more than a cup of coffee in the big leagues. If you compare Rottino to another one of Columbus’s hot hitting outfielders, Tim Fedroff (24 years old; 7 HR 22RBI .373AVG in 39 games), you may question why he was called up over a much younger, more athletic, homegrown player.

2.) Lowe sent packing, Tomlin in the pen- At the conclusion of tonight’s game, it was announced that the Indians designated Derek Lowe for assignment. It was clearly time for him to go, as his numbers were too atrocious for Acta to stomach. How bad? Well, so bad that I plan on writing up a piece on it tomorrow. Corey Kluber was recalled to take his spot on the roster and start tomorrow’s game. It was also announced that barring an emergency, Josh Tomlin will spend the rest of the season in the Indians bullpen.

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  • Drew says:

    Simple. Tim Fedroff bats left-handed. Also, he likely would have gotten the call-up had the Indians traded Choo.

  • Brenden Lowery says:

    That is correct Drew. I guess I just kind of wanted him up regardless of which side of the plate he hits from. He is red hot, and could have possibly provided a spark to the lineup.

    • Drew says:

      And also, I mentioned this to Stephanie on Facebook, I think the Indians are avoiding the promotion of people like Fedroff, LaPorta, Canzler, Carrera or Goedert, due to the number of times they can option them back to the minors. Do you know how many times a player can be sent back to the minors or if once they have major league experience, does it change how much their are compensated?

      • Brenden Lowery says:

        The whole “options” topic is sort of complicated, but I will try my best to explain it:

        Every professional player is eligible for 3 (in some cases, 4) option years. A player in the minor leagues cannot officially begin his 3 “Option Years” until he is both on the 40 man roster and is called-up to the major league club. The day that the player is called up, the three year clock starts.

        That player can be moved from the majors to the minors an infinite number of times during those three seasons, meaning it is misunderstood that there is an actual “number” of options a player has; However, once those three years have passed (again, in some cases it can be 4) the player must pass through waivers to be sent back to the minor leagues.

        If what I am describing is correct (and I think it is) here is the picture we have:

        Matt Laporta: He has played at least 50 games for the Indians from 2009-2011 and was obviously included on both the 25- and 40-man rosters during that time; therefore, the next time Laporta is recalled, he must either stick or travel through waivers back to the minors.

        Canzler and Carrera: Have only been on both the 40 and 25 man rosters since 2011, so both players should technically have two “option” years left.

        Goedert and Fedroff: Neither of them are on the Indians 40-man roster, so before they could be called up a roster spot would have to be cleared for them.

  • Will McIlroy says:

    Good piece.

    The option clock is a valid consideration in most cases but should not dictate, especially for a team like the Indians, and is but another example of the timid, paralysis-by-analysis, MBA-style management of this team.

    We have plenty of holes to fill this offseason and need to know who can play and who can’t. How many options Canzler, Carrera and et al have left will in the long run likely become irrelevant (unused).

    LaPorta needs a final chance to sink or swim. Let Fedroff and Goedert play and see what happens. We know what will happen with the current roster. Waiting until Spring Training does not provide a sufficient compass for what must be an active, thoughtful offseason.

    • Brenden Lowery says:

      Thanks Will.

      I agree. It is getting to the point where I am beginning to feel bad for Tim Fedroff. All the kid is doing is hitting, which is what he is getting paid to do. In the past two seasons he has been juggled between Akron and Columbus, hitting extremely well in both places. The guy has proven he can hit in the minors, so when does he get his chance to hit major league pitching? I assume he will be given a shot in September, but to me he warrants a bit more than a cup of coffee.