I went to a symposium a couple weeks ago that was part of the surround activities for Inamori Ethics Prize, which is given by Case Western Reserve University. This year’s prize was given to environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki. (Stay with me, there is a baseball connection.) One of the panelists was Dr. David Orr, who teaches at Oberlin. I knew I liked him when, in his very first comment, he mentioned the Indians. (See, I told you there was a baseball connection.) The question centered on whether the environmental movement should feel optimistic because of the advances in policy and awareness in the 50 years since the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which more or less marks the birth of the modern environmental movement. He replied, “I’ve been a Cleveland Indians fan since 1954,” so he knows something about optimism and despair. To paraphrase, he said that if you’re wholly optimistic, you aren’t facing reality, but that despair is a sin. Then he offered hope, “a verb with its sleeves rolled up,” as a third option.

Watching the Tribe come back in the bottom of the 9th to beat the Tigers yesterday made me, well, I guess hopeful is the most accurate word for it. Hopeful that perhaps the last few weeks of the season won’t be as mind-numbingly frustrating as the previous six weeks.  There have been many times this year when I despaired and felt like throwing in the towel on the season. There were fleeting moments when I even considered renouncing the team point blank and rooting for another team or watching football. Then something small happens, like a panelist in a serious academic symposium mentions the Indians (twice). Or something big happens, like the Tribe makes an exciting come-from-behind rally in the bottom of the 9th, and it makes me remember how much I enjoy the camaraderie of Indians fandom, of being part of a band (okay, tribe) of people who follow the team through thick and thin. Judging from the attendance numbers this year, that band of supporters is shrinking.

This team has been incredibly good and incredibly bad in the space of just a few months, with essentially the same players. It’s almost mind-boggling.  They could finish the season on a 15-game winning streak and still finish 10 games below .500, so it doesn’t make sense to be optimistic. Even my Pollyanna-ish attitude can’t look at their record optimistically–they’re can’t buy two wins in a row. But I can’t despair because they spent a month in first place with essentially the same core of players. There is some talent there.

There is talent, and there is also room for something akin to hope. Russ Canzler makes me hopeful. Esmil Rogers makes me hopeful. Cody Allen makes me hopeful. Vinnie Pestano and Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley make me incredibly hopeful that I won’t spend much of next season banging my head on the floor in frustration. And unless the earth completely stops turning on its axis, the top of Mt. Everest melts, and chicken monkeys fly out of my butt, Grady Sizemore’s and Travis Hafner’s contracts won’t be renewed, which will free up slightly over $15 million in payroll ($5  million for Sizemore + $13 million for Hafner – $2.75 million Hafner buyout).  I’m hopeful that’s enough to buy some starting pitching. However, any rays of hope always seem to be tempered by the memory of past disappointments. I’m hopeful with an asterisk.

So this is where my Indians fandom is with 15 games left to go in the season–I’m somewhere in the space between hope and Cleveland, Ohio. Where are you?


  • Steve Alex says:

    The additions of Chisenhall and Canzler have stretched the lineup from 5 competent hitters to 7. Now if we could just fill those perpetual voids at 1B and LF we’d have a full team. Too bad the front office’s first move will be to subtract (Choo) rather than add. Still, if they could get a 1B and/or SP for Choo and sign two outfielders such as Delmon Young or Angel Pagan it would give us a little hope. The money will be there to do it if they send Hernandez, Sizemore and Hafner packing. And I still think the pitching will improve with better run support.

  • Jeremy C says:

    Basically all of that extra 15 mil we have to spend will go towards the arbitration eligible players

  • Steve Alex says:

    I don’t see where another $15 million will be needed for the arbitration-eligible players on the existing roster. Cabrera and Santana already have cost-certainty with their new deals, and the Indians are likely to non-tender Jack Hannahan. Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp won’t be up for big raises with the terrible years they had. Chris Perez and Shin-Soo Choo are likely to be traded away. Joe Smith and Justin Masterson are probably the only ones who will get raises in arbitration, and how much could those be? Masterson had a bad year and Smith is a middle reliever. There should still be money for free agents. Besides, if you add up the money spent on Sizemore, Hafner, Damon, Kotchman, Hernandez, Hannahan and Lowe that can come off the books, that’s a lot more than $15M. More like $30M. 40 if Choo and Perez are traded.

  • Andrew says:

    Am I the only guy that wishes they wouldn’t trade Hannahan? I mean I understand he’s a sub-250 lifetime hitter but he was pretty hot earlier this season. It’s his GLOVE that I think is great. Few players play the hot corner as well as Jack. Also, he brings a personality-fire to a team desperately in need of motivation.

  • Susan Petrone says:

    You’re not alone! I’d like to keep Hannahan around too (for all the reasons you mention).

  • Steve Alex says:

    I like Jack Hannahan, but .232/.301/.332 is awful for a corner infielder. And he’s committed 12 errors in only 77 starts at 3rd base, for a .951 fielding percentage. For a defense-only glove man, that is not good. Even Miguel Cabrera is better, at .962. Throw in the lack of durability and he’s a liability all the way around. He’s gotta go.

  • Mark says:

    I am sure he is a nice guy like the rest of the roster finishing last.
    He does have to go, but Chisenhall is worse defensively. Where are Matt Williams and Jeff Kent when you need them?

  • Swift says:

    I’m glad you have some hope Susan… I have almost none. I hope I’m wrong, but this club seems to be a complete mess, well beyond something that a new left fielder and a starter will fix. Two seasons in a row with complete meltdowns have drained me. And I really don’t believe that this owner and this management will do what is necessary to fix it.

    Maybe there will be some good news over the winter, but I’m doubting it.

  • Steve Alex says:

    This is a very important off-season for the front office. They need to show some direction. Rebuild, contend, whatever, just pick a plan and stick with it instead of half-stepping everything.

  • Heather says:

    I remain hopeful, but lately I’ve gotten to be more impatient with Cleveland sports in general – it takes a lot of time to just watch them lose. I hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.. and hey – there’s always next year, right?