Sometimes there aren’t enough words to describe something you just saw. The sheer amazement of the situation, or lack there of, can’t be adequately described given the confines of our vocabulary. That’s saying something considering there are roughly hundreds of thousands of words readily available in the English language to choose from. The Indians’ three game series in Minnesota this past weekend was one of those times.
With their backs against the wall and possibly playing for their season, the Indians turned in one of the most lackluster performances in recent memory. Over the course of three games, Cleveland gave up 28 runs on 35 hits and 10 walks while managing to scrounge together only 6 runs on 13 hits. They went into the weekend 3.5 games out of first; after the sweep at the hands of the Twins, they find themselves 5.5 games back with the trade deadline looming.
Now the questions left to answer are: will the Indians become buyers or sellers before 4 p.m. Tuesday? Will the team that enters Kansas City be the same team that makes its way to Detroit on Friday?
After taking two of three from the Tigers last week, it appeared as if the Indians were primed to make a run at the top of the AL Central. Now no one knows what they’re going to do. At 50-52, the Indians look like they might be on life support. They aren’t pitching well at all. Their bats look as if they’ve gone back into hibernation after scoring five runs off of Justin Verlander. Even worse, it doesn’t appear as if there is any sense of urgency anywhere to be found on this team. How else do you explain such a disappointing three days of baseball?
Now it may not matter. The Indians’ front office probably knows what they plan on doing at this point. Let’s just hope that whatever the strategy may be, it’s made with a cool, collective approach. Let’s hope it’s aimed at making the team better in the long run and not to dump salary or serve as a knee jerk reaction to public pressure to compete now.
Meanwhile, the Royals have no such worries. They know who they are and they know what direction they’re headed. While this year has been an epic disappointment by all accounts, their core of young players is set for the foreseeable future. Sure, they were expected to play better than their 41-60 record, but no one really expected them to compete. Not this year.
The Royals are taking their lumps and growing as a team. While it’s been frustrating for everyone involved—players, management, and fans alike—they understand that the bumps and bruises they endure now will only make them better in the long run. Despite a slow start, Alex Gordon has found himself, Mike Moustakas has exceeded each and every expectation, and Billy Butler has remained a doubles machine while adding the long ball to his repertoire. Even Alcides Escobar, long known for his glove work in the field, has established himself as a competent big league hitter coming into play with an average topping .300
Then there is Eric Hosmer, the highly touted first baseman believed to be the next great Kansas City Royal. While he shined in his 2011 rookie season (.293/.334/.465, 19 HR, 78 RBI), his sophomore campaign has been anything but spectacular. He struggled for much of the first half to get above the Mendoza line and his power stroke has all but abandoned him. Coming into play his slash line is a mediocre .229/.299/.361 with only 9 homer runs and 40 RBI. All season long people have pointed to a regression of BABIP as the culprit to Hosmer’s problems. However, his .251 BABIP has done very little to get back to the league average. At this rate, it doesn’t look like that’s happening, but there’s no reason to think he can’t be better in 2013.
The Royals’ pitching staff has been an adventure for manager Ned Yost. Ineffective starters combined with an ineffective bullpen have led to a lot of lopsided blowouts and victories lost. Bruce Chen has also been surprisingly effective for a second straight year, but he can’t carry the Royals alone. There is still hope that former No. 1 pick Luke Hochevar can be transformed into a front line starter, but patience is beginning to wear thin. Jonathan Sanchez… well, he was such an overwhelming disappointment that he was shipped off to Colorado for former Indian Jeremy Guthrie.