Indians Still in First Place…

Well I’m back.  It was a long and somehow both tiring and relaxing weekend.  I hope everyone enjoyed their 4th of July and managed to make it through with all appendages still in tact.  I myself still have all of my fingers and toes, one hell of a sunburn thanks to the beach, but other than that I can’t really complain.

Now, back to business…

We’ve made it past the 4th of July, the unofficial midway point for the summer.  We are also a week away from the All-Star game, baseball’s unofficial half way point.  To the surprise of most, including myself, the Indians are still in first place and lead the Tigers by 1.5 games heading into tonight’s game with the Yankees.

It’s surprising for a number of reasons.  First of all, who would have thought at the beginning of the season that the Indians would find themselves in this position.  We all would have been happy with third place and competitive baseball, now the stakes have been raised.  Second, coming off the stretch of bad baseball we have witnessed it’s surprising that they’re still in first place.  In all honesty, I think it has more to do with the Tigers recent cooling off rather than anything the Indians have done.  Sure they’ve won two series in a row and have been playing better, but not to the level they were earlier in the season.  Shocking, truly shocking.

We are now 25 days away from the non-waiver trade deadline.  The question on everyone’s mind is whether or not the Indians front office (and more importantly the ownership) will step up and make a move to improve the current roster.  I was up in the air about this but having had more time to think it over I believe the Indians need to do something in the coming weeks.  With Shin-Soo Choo hurt, Grady Sizemore slumping, the outfield platoon of Kearns, Duncan, and Buck, and the failed Cord Phelps experiment, the Indians need to inject a jolt into the lineup that is neither on the current roster or waiting in the wings in Columbus.

The most likely outcome will more than likely be the Indians calling up more prospects to try and fill the holes.  The Indians still have the Luis Valbuena card to play as well as Jason Kipnis if they really get desperate.  There is also an outside shot that Lonnie Chisenhall could settle into the hitter we all think he’ll eventually become, but he is quickly showing us that there is a huge difference between Triple A and MLB pitching. 

The bottom line from all of this is the Indians can’t rely on players with zero experience at the big league level if they’re serious about making a run at this thing.  They also can’t go out and break the bank trying to acquire a top level talent.  That’s why this whole thing will be very tricky and in all honesty, I’m glad my name isn’t Chris Antonetti.  He’s really in a no win situation, and he knows it… he has to.

According to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer:

“The plan is to win games, reach the postseason and win championships,” said Antonetti. “You have certain opportunities to do that. This year, the way we’ve played. . .this is one of those opportunities. We’re going to do everything we can to maximize that opportunity.”

Antonetti said owners Larry and Paul Dolan have encouraged him to find way to improve the team. The one thing they did not give him was an open checkbook.

“There is that balance, where we have to say at what expense long term and what will we have to give up (to improve the team),” said Antonetti. “We recognize that there’s going to have to be some compromise that if we’re going to be giving up young players who have the potential to be good down the road. We understand there will be some cost associated with improving the team, we have just have to find what that right balance is.”

So ya… don’t expect any block busters.  Here are a few names I feel like the Indians could go out and try to acquire without giving up a king’s ransom.  So, while acquiring Hunter Pence or B.J. Upton would be great, it’s not going to happen.  The Indians also aren’t about to rent a bat for three months only to see them walk away in free agency.  That means we won’t be seeing Ryan Ludwick return to Cleveland.  Here are the best options considering the circumstances.

  • Josh Willingham, OF Oakland
  • Marlon Byrd, OF Chicago Cubs
  • Melky Cabrera, OF Kansas City
  • Jeff Francoeur, OF Kansas City
  • Wilson Betemit, 3B/2B/OF Kansas City
  • Vlad Guerrero, DH/OF Baltimore (yes he’s a free agent, but he’s the one that could probably be had for cheap)

So ya… there you have it.  The pickings… not good.  I guess the point here is enjoy what you have right now Indians fans because barring a complete change in philosophy by the Dolans, this will be another wasted season.

Man… Do I ever hope I’m wrong.

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