Itâ€™s a record that has been untouched since the Cleveland Spidersâ€™ horrid 1899 season. No MLB team has come close to breaking the 112-year record for least wins in a season, but Iâ€™m confident that my Cleveland Indians can do it this season.
A once-heralded team that seemed to produce all-stars like Charlie Sheen produces incoherent psychobabble, the Indians now look like the leftovers of any MLB teamâ€™s farm system.
Clevelandâ€™s two bright spots, outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and catcher Carlos Santana, provide a light at the end of the tunnel for the Tribe; but as history has shown us, baseball is not an individual sport. Now I know what youâ€™re thinking, and yes the Yankees do have a lot of players who play for themselves.
But when October rolls around, the greedy bastards always seem to join together and work as a team for the next month.
Yes, we do have a 12-11 record in Spring Training this year, but itâ€™s important to remember that the opposition is throwing their AA miscreants up against, what seems to be, our Opening Day roster. Needless to say, itâ€™s going to be a very long season for the patient Cleveland fans.
Letâ€™s begin with the outfield — a group that most fans would see as one of the most athletic in the American League. I, however, say â€˜hold your horses, baseball fans.â€™
Former Gold Glove winner and Cleveland heartthrob, Grady Sizemore showed promise early in his career, but has since been on IR more games than he has been in uniform. Shin-Soo Choo, who batted .300 with 22 homeruns in a â€œPlay to Stayâ€ season in 2010, signed a $3.975 million deal in January — making him the 4th highest paid player on the roster.
Michael Brantley, an afterthought in the C.C. Sabathia trade, has racked up more frequent-flyer miles from Cleveland to Columbus than the pilots themselves, and has been unable to find a home on either team. Backup Austin Kearns provides little to the team except add â€œveteranâ€ experience that the outfield has not seen since Cleveland brought Kenny Lofton back to town in 2007.
Now, to the infield. As a fan, itâ€™s sad to see these young athletes struggle early in their careers; but Cleveland is notoriously known to rush its prospects onto the field before they are ready (i.e. Andy Marte and Brandon Phillips).
All of the starters, with the exception of journeyman Orlando Cabrera, were thrown into the big show way too early. First baseman Matt LaPorta, a top-10 pick in the 2007 MLB Draft, has struggled to find his bat in the pros, hitting just .232 in his first two seasons.
Across from LaPorta is Jason David. David, who provides a new look at third base for the Indians, came to Cleveland in the Cliff Lee trade with Philadelphia. The lone â€œrookieâ€ on the team , Donald, is expected to miss Opening Day due to a hand injury. Next to Donald, Asdrubal Cabrera (no known relation to Orlando) continues to struggle with his defense for the Tribe. The once-promising shortstop is coming off a 2010 season in which he committed 12 errors.
Donâ€™t fear, Cleveland fansâ€¦â€œPronkâ€ is back! Former AL MVP candidate Travis Hafner returns for his eight season as Clevelandâ€™s designated hitter (and with him comes his $11.5 million per season contract).
Hafner, the Indiansâ€™ No. 10 all-time homerun leader, is looking to complete his first injury-free season since 2007. But is it too late for this once-feared power hitter? Hafner has struggled in recent years to make contact with the ball, batting just .259 in his last three seasons.
Behind the plate for the Tribe is second-year man Carlos Santana, who spent most of 2010 backing up then-catcher Lou Marson. Once a top prospect in Clevelandâ€™s farm system, Santana is drawing comparison to former Indians catcher VÃctor Martinez.
Like Martinez, Santana possesses power and patience with this bat (although he is yet to show it in the pros) but struggles with a mediocre arm behind the plate — something opposing teams will be certain to take advantage of.
Not many teams have a seven-man starting rotation at pitcher, but leave it to Cleveland to set the new norm. Perhaps this is a strategic plan by the Tribe, but all signs point to an incredible flock of talent being the cause.
Former Cy Young finalist Fausto Carmona will serve as the teamâ€™s ace for the second straight season. Looking to re-gain his domination from 2007, Carmona will need to fine-tune the command issues that have plagued the consistently inconsistent pitcher throughout his career.
Behind Carmona is Boston Red Sox washout Justin Masterson. The hard-throwing Masterson is looking to use the 2011 season to improve his career 16-28 record — a tall task for a tall man.
The remaining pitchers in Clevelandâ€™s rotation are a real whoâ€™s who of minor league prospects: Mitch Talbot, Carlos Carrasco (another piece in the Cliff Lee trade), Josh Tomlin, Jeanmar Gomez, and the once-promising David Huff will battle for the remaining starting spots.
No need to worry, though; odds are that all five pitchers will constantly be in and out of AAA.
Take your pick at options for the Indiansâ€™ closer role. Former St. Louis Cardinal Chris Perez is the early front-runner for the gig.
But donâ€™t count out middle relievers Rafael Perez, Tony Smith, and Joe Smith. All three men battled for the position last year, so itâ€™s really anyoneâ€™s race. Like the starting rotation, though, the remainder of the relief pitchers is a real guessing game. Vinnie Pestano, Frank Hermann, Josh Judy, and veteran Chad Durbin will challenge each other for any leftover playing time.
In what I see as the biggest hindrance to the Indiansâ€™ success, former Nationals manager Manny Acta is expected to lead this team to glory. Acta, who finished no higher than 4th place in the NL East in three seasons with Washington, replaced fan favorite Eric Wedge who is now managing in Seattle.
With that being said, I have to raise this question: Why would a manager who struggled with a young, talented Washington team be trusted to revamp Cleveland, a team with a very similar lineup?
Now Iâ€™m not saying that this team canâ€™t have success, but as long as Mark â€œCheapiroâ€ and Owner Larry Dolan are running the show, Cleveland will be trapped in the basement of the MLB standings.
Prediction: Not only will Cleveland battle its 1899 squad for an historically worst record in MLB, but the Indians will ship out any player that provides a glimmer of hope by the All-Star Break.