Too late for this season, but weekend provides hope
It would be very easy to say "Hey, it was only the Royals," but this weekend was a glimpse into the past and hopefully the future of Indians baseball.
Yes, Kansas City does have the worst record in baseball, but they did enter town on a hot streak sweeping the Red Sox, including winning the last two games in their last at-bat.
We have been waiting all season for some magic and it finally arrived this weekend. I was in the car for Tom Hamilton's call of Friday's comeback win. Poor Tom has had a long year and it came out in his voice on Friday. You would have thought the Indians had clinched a playoff spot on Grady Sizemore's game winning triple.
The momentum carried over into Saturday because when the bullpen tried to give away the first game, the offense rebounded to take it back. Add another comeback in the second game and a stress-relieving 11-run first inning on Sunday afternoon and lo and behold it is the second extended winning streak of the season, albeit the first since April.
With the goals of the season lost, it becomes about finding what can be salvaged. The starting rotation looks salvageable. The bullpen has torched many of the starts, but the promise of a solid rotation remains fixed for next season. Jeremy Sowers looks to be everything promised and while it might be nice to have a real ace, not many teams can throw out C.C. Sabathia, Paul Byrd, Jason Westbrook and Cliff Lee. And the Indians do have real stars to build on, Grady Sizemore is arguably the top young player in the American League and Travis Hafner is the real deal.
Sure questions abound - Is Jhonny Perlata a major league shortstop? And where does Victor Martinez play? There is a big question mark for question number one. And as for the second question, Kelly Shoppach is trying to make that first base. The young kid with his strong arm and solid bat could make whether Andy Marte is a genuine major league ready player or just a prospect - irrelevant concerning the pros and cons of the Coco Crisp trade. And speaking of memorable names, Shin-Soo Choo is quickly becoming this city's favorite Asian ball player since Isuro Tanaka goaded Pedro Cerrano into playing mean again.
Admittedly the last few months have really sucked. But there is a reason to keep watching and not totally turn off baseball while we wait for the Browns to kick off the regular season and LeBron James to get back from Asia. I like what I am seeing from the young players, Joe Inglett is making the most of his opportunity to play. Franklin Gutierrez and Ryan Garko are making bids to be a part of the future. And while the bullpen needs veteran relievers to solidify it next year, Tom Mastny and Brian Sikorski are stepping up to make bids to be a part of the future.
And while I do not expect him to be a part of the team next year, I have been very impressed with Aaron Boone. He has been the ultimate professional as the Indians try to force feed Marte (as the fans wished for) into the lineup. His professionalism in the locker room can only help the development of these young players. And whether our third baseman of the future is Marte or Kevin Kouzmanoff playing in Buffalo or currently playing shortstop — well that can only be learned on the field.
These last few weeks of the season are about more than playing for Eric Wedge's job, it is to bring back faith in the process of the rebuilding of this club. The Indians should have money to spend in the off-season, the key is to do it wisely. And not to just throw money at anyone who has closed a game before or buy the all hit no field Alfonso Soriano. Use the last few weeks to find out what this team really needs.
And it is also about revealing character. This weekend revealed that maybe-just-maybe the future is still bright. Or it could just be Kansas City cooking. Hopefully, the Indians’ confidence has been restored and they can become spoilers down the playoff stretch. It isn't what we hoped for, but it is something still worth paying attention to.