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Tribe reminds us of bad old days



Published: Sun, May 5, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Who was it who said (and I'm paraphrasing here): "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it"?

I'm not sure of the source, but I'm pretty certain he wasn't a Cleveland Indians executive. Those guys are going to get a history lesson in the next couple of seasons.

Specifically, back to the '60s, '70s and '80s when the following refrain could be heard:

"What do want to do tonight?"

How about an Indians game.

"OK. What time do they start?"

What time can you get there?

Sure, some things have changed. Nowadays, you can check on-line for tickets and pick out which seats you want in advance.

Back then, we took our chances at the ticket window.

'Course, those tickets went for less than 10 bucks, even the box seats closest to the field. You have to be pretty creative to even park for less than $15 around Jacobs Field now.

Often-heard phrase

But the phrase "good seats still available" is being heard far more often than at anytime since the early '90s.

The reason is simple. The Indians are not good.

The 11-1 start has been proven to be an aberration. The question is, has the 2-14 performance since then also been one, or the norm?

An uncle, retired, who has spent the past few winters around Winter Haven, Fla., and a regular visitor to spring training, told us in March he predicted an 80-win season for the Tribe. He stood by that figure even through the first two weeks of the season.

Now he's wondering if that number wasn't a little too high.

It's not too difficult to figure out why the Indians are losing. The hard part is deciding which area is more responsible.

Starters off the map

The starting pitching has gone south. The rotation was 10-0 in the first 12 games with an ERA under 3.00. Since then, they are 2-14 with an ERA approaching 8. Young lefty C.C. Sabathia has been hit especially hard and Bartolo Colon still hasn't shown he has the makeup to be a staff ace.

Of course, in their defense, the starters figure they've had to be almost perfect because the offense is averaging less than 21/2 runs per game.

The bullpen hasn't done much, either, failing to keep the Indians within striking distance in the latter innings of games.

The defense is embarrassing. How many times are we going to have to watch outfielders miscommunicate or colliding? How many throws will Einar Diaz whip into center field, or Russell Branyan into the dugout?

General manager Mark Shapiro retooled the team from one reliant on home runs to "little ball." That's fine, but in doing so he sent packing two of the team's best base runners in Kenny Lofton and Roberto Alomar.

In their place are Milton Bradley and Ricky Gutierrez, who aren't going to remind anyone of Cobb and Brock.

Little consistency

Of the four veterans manager Charlie Manuel needed to have consistent years -- Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, Ellis Burks and Travis Fryman -- only Vizquel and Burks got off to decent starts at the plate. And Burks is starting to show his age with nagging injuries to keep him out of the lineup.

Thome, with no appreciable protection behind him, isn't getting many good pitches to hit. And Fryman has shown he's not the type of hitter who can carry a lineup, but rather one who will fill a hole in the lower third.

All this hand-wringing isn't to suggest the Indians won't break out of their current malaise. But I'm also not holding my breath until the next 11-1 streak comes around either.

XRob Todor is sports editor of The Vindicator. Write to him at todor@vindy.com.




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