Why the Indians Just Don’t Matter…

“The Indians Not Looking to Make any Big Moves”

That was the main headline on the front page of Indians.com on Monday.  It’s the middle of the offseason and baseball’s winter meetings are going on.  It’s the prime time for scooping up free agents and building a team.  It’s the time to transform a team from the bottom of the barrel to contender, from fizzle to sizzle.  While mostly every other team in Major League Baseball has come out swinging with big trades and big signings this was the Indians plan “not making any big moves”

Yesterday the Indians followed up that bombshell with this gem.  “While much noise wasn’t made from the Indians during Day 1 of the Meetings Monday, the Tribe is following through on its agenda and does not feel the time to spend lavishly is now.”

Really???

“The Tribe is getting a feel for the lay of Meetings land.”

Wow… what a bombshell announcement.  I haven’t been this excited about anything since my last visit to the DMV…

When you get down to it, isn’t that the problem with the Indians, a lack of excitement?  Does anyone honestly care at all about what the Indians are doing?  Anyone at all?

The answer to that question is a resounding no.  Nobody cares about the Indians right now.  The city is more concerned about the state of the Browns and how well/poorly they played the past week.  People would rather keep bitching about “the one who will not be named” down in Miami and the sorry state of the Cavaliers.  Even in their feeble state, the Cavs have been able to generate some form of fan response.  This is due mostly in part to Dan Gilbert’s insane ramblings about bringing a championship to Cleveland before Lord Voldemort in Miami.

Is this the fault of the fans?  Absolutely not.  What have the Indians done as an organization to help generate excitement for their product on the field?  Absolutely nothing.  Meanwhile, as the Indians continue to flounder in their mediocrity teams like the Red Sox and Yankees continue to make trades and free agent signings to get them back on top.  The Rangers are making a run for Cliff Lee.  Hell, even the cellar dwelling Washington Nationals signed Jayson Werth to an insanely large contract.  And why did they do it?  To generate excitement in the fan base.

Sure the Jayson Werth signing was stupid.  It’s probably going to back fire in their faces and leave the organization financially crippled in two years but did that fear stop them?  No.  While it is being panned by many as a stupid move it’s done the one thing for the Nationals that the Indians refuse to do for themselves, generate some resemblance of a reaction from the fan base.  At least the Nationals are trying and putting forth some kind of effort.

Meanwhile, the Indians appear to be happy with what they have going into next year.  The main problem is that what they have almost lost them 100 games over the past two seasons.  And they expect the fan base to be excited about this lack of any sort of development?  Why should we?  If the Indians are going to put a crap product out on the field they’re going to continue to get a crap reaction from the fans.

Sure this isn’t the way it supposed to be.  Fans are supposed to support a team, but does that mean we shouldn’t criticize them either?  If you care about something shouldn’t you challenge it to make itself better?  Shouldn’t they want to be better?

The Indians are facing a harsh reality heading into the season.  They don’t matter.  That’s worse than being below average or having a few bad years.  We’re talking about total apathy on the part of the fans.  There is no excitement surrounding the Indians and they don’t seem to care.  Rather than being a player and trying to make some type of power play to engage the fans, they seem more inclined to maintain the status quo.

This is by no means a call for the Indians to go out and drop $180 million on Carl Crawford.  But they have to do something to make the city of Cleveland say “Hey, did you see what the Indians did?”  Give the people a reason to believe.  There is a golden opportunity right now for the Indians to take the reigns as the city’s sports darlings.  The Cavs find themselves in the midst of a massive rebuilding project and the Browns, while showing promise, aren’t quite there yet.  Why not do something bold?  What is there to lose?

The Indians supposedly have one of the deepest farm systems in the majors.  Why not turn a few prospects into proven commodities?  Do we really need 19 third basemen and 7 catchers?  Only one can play at a time.  Yes, there is a solid core of young talent on this team between Carlos Santana, Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore, and possibly Matt LaPorta, but they aren’t ready to win, not on their own, not yet.  Instead of making an investment in some upper level free agents the Indians have developed a mentality of waiting for lightning in a bottle, that somehow someway everyone will have a career year and push the Indians into baseball’s elite.

Then again what do I know?  I’m not a GM.  I’m certainly not a team president.  I’m not an owner.  I’m just a fan.  I think I know better than the people calling the shots.

In a lot of instances I know that’s the truth.  It’s the nature of being a fan.  However, it doesn’t take a genius to look at the situation and realize there are issues.  The current regime, like their product on the field, has been ridiculously mediocre yet they all got promotions.  So maybe that’s the real problem.  Maybe the Indians just don’t care.  Maybe it’s more about the bottom line and staying in the black no matter what as opposed to taking chances.  Is there anything the Indians have done during the Larry Dolan/Mark Shapiro/Chris Antonetti era that would make any of us think anything different?

The Indians may say they have a plan, that this is a process that’s going to take time.  Don’t tell me that the grand scheme to get the Indians over the hump is to sign bottom of the barrel free agents like Russell Branyan and Mark Grudzielanek in February and try to convince me that they’re the missing pieces.  If that’s the case, then why aren’t more talented teams like New York, Boston, or Detroit falling over one another to get these guys and get over the hump?  Are we that stupid?  Don’t insult the fans, we’re smarter than that.

We’ve all seen what can happen when the Indians matter.  They can generate a level of excitement in this city that is hard to compete with.  The 455 banner out in right field shows exactly what can happen when the Indians matter.  So don’t tell me that this is about the fans and our inability to get behind the Indians.  The fans didn’t go anywhere.  We’re still here watching, waiting for the Indians to do something… to do anything.

Of course no one can force the Indians to do anything.  The more the fans push back, the more we’ll hear things like building the future, doing things the right way, establishing a solid farm system, and maintaining financial flexibility.  Apparently, it’s enough financial flexibility to do absolutely nothing and more of the same corporate speak that has boxed the Indians into their sad current state.

So as spring training draws closer and the Indians rev up their usual start of the season promotional campaigns, we’ll all sit around and wonder to ourselves, “Why bother?”  It’s going to be another 162 games of frustrating mediocrity.  Another long summer where the Cleveland Indians don’t matter and everyone knows it…

Except for them.

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