Monday, August 07, 2006

Fighting Words

Now we're mad. We contained our anger, for the most part, as this season of "promise" began to unravel. We didn't get too angry when GM Mark Shapiro started discarding players like Jason Johnson, Eduardo Perez and Ronnie Belliard as if they were old furniture that he didn't want anyway. And we weren't really bothered by the fact that C.C. Sabathia seems to be eating his way out of the big leagues. As Cleveland fans, that's what we expect. But when Eric Wedge said yesterday that he would be giving Fausto Carmona some breathing room by burying him in middle relief, a line was crossed.

This season was doomed from the day that owner Larry Dolan cheated the fans by again failing to provide Shapiro or the fans with a competitive budget, as he had promised. So it's not surprising that there's been very little to cheer about or be entertained. But when Wickman was traded and Fausto Carmona was named the closer, the back end of Tribe games became the best "must see TV" since the third season of "Seinfeld."

Carmona throws a million miles an hour. He has Syd Finch pace and Atticus Finch control. Personally, I rushed home from a party on Saturday night just to see Carmona pitch the ninth inning. And he didn't disappoint. While he did get two outs, which is part of his charm, he also managed to misplay a bunt into a single and hen give up a two-run homer to Ivan "Less Pudgy Since My Prescription for the "Clear" and the "Cream" Ran Out" Rodriguez to end the game. And this wasn't even Carmona's most spectacular flame-out this past week.

If you can't be entertained by this brand of baseball, you simply can't be entertained. In fact, consider these last seven games for a moment. The Tribe went 2-5 against Boston and Detroit. But even a troll like WTAM's Mike Trivisonno could scratch just enough below the surface to see that this could have been a stretch that truly made you feel better about next year. It's not just that the Indians lost 5 games by one run. It's more how they did it, systematically snatching, in each case, defeat from the jaws of victory. There were three blown saves by Fausto and one by Fernando Cabrera. Given Wickman's record over his career, in all likelihood we would have won all four of those games.

Then, of course, there was yesterday's debacle. True, no save opportunity was harmed in the making of that defeat. But didn't it figure that Sabathia couldn't get his 300-pound frame off the mound quickly enough to a weak hit, only to have that error lead to the only run of the game? I'm actually surprised the rest of the infield didn't quit on Sabathia and walk off the field when the error was made. And didn't it figure that Travis Hafner, who has 5 grand slams this year, would have probably his worst at bat with the bases loaded? All this did was deprive us all of the chance to witness another entertaining bullpen meltdown.

So as we survey the parched landscaped, made bleaker by Wedge's announcement of Fausto's demise, we find ourselves 15 games under .500 and on a pace to win a robust 69 games. But with the news that Fausto is taking a breather, that pretty much takes the air out of any entertainment value left to be extracted from the remaining games. If Larry Dolan isn't going to give us the money to compete and isn't going to sell the team then at least he can throw the fans one bone and order Shapiro to order Wedge to order Fausto back to his rightful spot as the closer. That may not do much for next year, but it gives us some reason to care at least until the Browns first regular season game.

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