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Springtime Storylines: Are the Indians the worst team in baseball?

Mar 26, 2010, 1:15 PM EDT

Cleveland Block C Cap.jpgBetween now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30
teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally
breaking down their chances for the 2010 season.  Hello, everybody, Harry Doyle here, welcoming all you Friends of the Feather to another season of Indians baseball!

big question: Are the Indians the worst team in baseball?

We won’t get to the Pirates until next week, but the Tribe has a good argument.  Mostly because of the rotation. Pop quiz, hot shot: how many other teams’ rotations would Jake Westbrook, Justin Masterson and Fausto Carmona make? A few? Sure, probably. Now on how many teams would they make the top 3?  Hard to see any to be honest, but they’ll be anchoring Cleveland’s staff. Rounding things out will be Aaron Laffey and David Huff. If the scoreboard at Progressive Field wasn’t electronic the team would have to place a special order for extra crooked numbers this year.

What’s more, the pitchers won’t get much help from the defense, especially on the infield. Cabrera, Valbuena, and Peralta may be the most lyrically-named infield in baseball, but all three of them had negative UZRs last year.  Outfield is better, but not significantly so. Grady Sizemore can cover ground, so that’s nice, but Shin Soo-Choo and Matt Laporta (or Michael Brantley) aren’t any great shakes. They’ll get some offense from that crew, though, so it’s not like the outfield is a black hole or anything.

But really, it does all come back to pitching here. The Indians’ were 29th in the majors in ERA last year, and that was with Cliff Lee on the team until July 29th. Having a healthy Westbrook will be nice, I suppose it’s hard to imagine Carmona being worse this year than he was last year and the youngins are bound to improve a bit, but there’s no escaping the fact that this team is gonna get utterly destroyed by opposing hitters night-in and night-out.

So what else is going on?

  • While the Indians may be the worst major league team this year, they are far from the worst organization.  The trades of CC Sabathia, Casey Blake, Victor Martinez, Cliff Lee and others were depressing for Indians’ season ticket purchasers, but between those moves, good drafts and good scrap heap pickups there is a lot of young talent in the Indians’ system.
  • The stylish Manny Acta takes over in the dugout. When he was given the job in Washington people thought it was a good move because he’s supposed to be a guy who can help young prospects develop and stuff. Only problem is that Jim Bowden never gave him any. He’ll have some in Cleveland towards the end of the season and definitely in 2011. In the meantime, though, his life is going to seem a lot like it did in D.C.: poor talent, little chance to compete and a mandate to keep morale up. With better talent in the pipeline he may find it easier to be optimistic with the Tribe than it was with the Nats.
  • Believe it or not, the Indians are still in the process of trying to unload veterans.  If Kerry Wood has anything more than a weak pulse this summer you can bet he’ll be shopped. Same with Jhonny Peralta.  Any other guy over the age of 25 or so who does anything this season is likely headed to the trading block too, at least for a look-see. Only problem is that the guys they want to move the most have rather ugly contracts: $11.5 million for Travis Hafner, $11 million
    for Jake Westbrook and
    $10.5 million for Wood.
  • The most interesting question in Cleveland this year — at least for people who don’t get off on rebuilding and prospect watching — will be whether Grady Sizemore can return to elite status. Sizemore underwent surgeries to repair his left elbow and abdominal wall last
    September, ending a very disappointing season for a guy who, before then, was considered one of the best players in the game. It’s almost certain that it was the elbow injury and not sudden-suck syndrome that led to the down year, so I’m fairly confident that he’ll rebound.

So how
are they gonna do?

It’s not a team that’s built to compete in 2010, but it will be
competing again soon. In the meantime, Tribe fans should enjoy the fact
that there are plenty of available seats in a pretty nice ballpark. The media will focus on the near-empty stadium and the dismal nightly performances, but the Indians’ situation is not totally hopeless. Just hopeless for 2010.

Prediction: Last place in the AL Central and challenging for the worst record in baseball.

NOTE: Unlike I have for every other team, I will not use the official logo for the Indians (or, like with the Tigers, a vintage official logo).  Why? Because while I don’t get bent out of shape at the team being called “The Indians,” Chief Wahoo is a racist freakin’ logo and I’m not giving him any time face time.  If you insist on it I will write a post next week explaining in brutal detail why I feel this way, but I have covered this before (and here’s a wonderfully comprehensive take on it from some Indians fans).  Besides: the block C alternate cap Cleveland uses is by far the coolest cap in the game. They should totally wear that all the time.

UPDATE: I’m a moron. That cap I had previously pictured above was not the official Block C cap the Indians have used as alternates the past couple of years. It was an original design made by Paul Cousineau at The DiaTribe blog, for a post he did back in January re-imagining the Indians’ uniforms. The real hat — which is up there now — doesn’t have the white piping It’s a great post, by the way.

  1. lar @ wezen-ball - Mar 26, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    Oh boy, Craig. Time for another Wahoo “discussion”. Fun times.
    When I made the stadium timeline last month, I felt the same way. I couldn’t bring myself to put the Wahoo logo on the chart, even if it was only an inch tall. It’s ridiculous. And, as much as I enjoyed the Jake last year, the team store was strange to walk around due to the over-reliance on the Wahoo head (and the 1954-ish throwback stuff they were selling was even worse… of course, the Milwaukee Braves stuff was pretty much the same way).

  2. Old Gator - Mar 26, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    I’m getting to work on Major League IV even as I write this. I may need Martin Scorses’s help busting Willie Mays Hayes out of jail, Pedro Serrano’s tattoos have gotten a bit on the morbid side and those goat sacrifices at home plate are gonna piss off PETA something ferocious, Wild Thing Vaughan has shoul…heh, no, that’s Kerry…but we have a lot of EYPs we can bring up early who’ll work for minimum AFTRA scale. In a small concession to using our luxury tax money, we’ve slung a pair of Dart turboprops on the team DC-3 and added a digital VOR to the panel, and in a gesture towards re-establishing political correctness we’ve replaced Chief Wahoo with a self-portrait of Sherman Alexie. But the big news is: Jamie McCourt has agreed to play the owner!

  3. Motherscratcher - Mar 26, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    I hope you’re wrong, but you’re probably not. However, this is Cleveland and we can always somehow convince ourselves that we have a chance. I actually love that ridiculous optimism that each spring seems to bring here, no matter how short lived it might be. It makes me feel a little better about my town.
    And, you might not have heard, that Redmond will be Carmona’s personal catcher this year, so we have convinced ourselves that this was the problem all along (lack of Mark Redmond) with Fausto and fully expect 19 wins. We have been breeding midges all winter to be released during his starts just in case.
    Unfortunately, I’m still in the minority here in Cleveland as it pertains to the Chief. Chief Wahoo sucks and the sooner he’s gone the better. It’s inevitable so I don’t know what’s taking so long. You’re right about the hat. The block C is great. The weekend cream colored uniforms are great too. Why is it so hard to step into the present as far as our stupid “mascot”?
    Either way, no matter what the outlook, I have my tickets and can’t wait for the games to start. You watch, we are going to surprise some people. My prediction?
    Like Clubber Lang, “my prediction…pain.”

  4. Bobby - Mar 26, 2010 at 1:54 PM

    I don’t have much of a problem with the name Indians either, but if that name continues to be used, why don’t we have a team called The Jews? The Catholics? The Whites? It’s either all alright or none of it is, right? I am Jewish and if I ever get the chance to own a new franchise I will be calling it The Jews.

  5. Craig Calcaterra - Mar 26, 2010 at 1:57 PM

    Frank Black (Black Francis) had a band named The Catholics. I thought that was pretty cool.
    Names don’t bother me simply because they’re only words. Iconography and mascots and stuff like that bugs me. Yes, even with my Atlanta Braves, for whom I own shockingly little merchandise, and for good reason.

  6. Tom - Mar 26, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    I think the difference is that in reality there is no such thing as an “Indian.” They don’t call themselves that, they refer to their tribe. In the same way I don’t particularly think the Chief Wahoo emblem is offensive because I don’t think anyone thinks of the natives when they see the hat, they think of the team. It’s not the 19th century anymore — words and images can change.

  7. Gary B - Mar 26, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    I agree totally with you regarding chief Wahoo. I can’t figure why they haven’t deleted him. However, the C logo cap is among the worst in MLB. Can’t they come with something that isn’t racist or boring?

  8. nelson - Mar 26, 2010 at 2:21 PM

    abe pollin finds the name “bullets” offensive, changes team name to wizards.
    daniel snyder?

  9. KR - Mar 26, 2010 at 2:39 PM

    I don’t have much of a problem with the name Indians either, but if that name continues to be used, why don’t we have a team called The Jews? The Catholics? The Whites?

  10. Buckeye Bob - Mar 26, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    Let’s also ban the Cowboys, Yankees, Chiefs, Redskins along with Vikings, Buccaneers, Raiders, Pirates (don’t want to piss off real pirates and other invaders) and of course, the Fighting Irish. Anyone know that the name Indians was in honor of the first American Indian to play in the majors? The logo is a caricature,just look at the goofy Notre Dame mascot, the irish folks don’t seem to mind.
    Animals have rights according to some of the wacky Progressives out there, just wait until they get involved in mascots.
    (I’m actually for banning Brutus Buckeye, just to show I’ve got some limits)

  11. Motherscratcher - Mar 26, 2010 at 3:07 PM

    The idea that the Indians were named in honor of Louis Sockalexis has been discredited by those who have actually researched it. It’s a widely held belief, and it’s a nice story. The problem is it just ain’t true.

  12. Part Native American - Mar 26, 2010 at 3:09 PM

    1st disclaimer–I am part Miami, but look lilly white (except for no beard), & my views do not necessarily reflect the majority of Native American opinions.
    That said, I freakin’ love all teams named after Native Americans. My understanding of the legend for Cleveland is that the team was renamed to honor of Chief Bender; if so, it seems pretty dumb to get huffy about something that was meant as a compliment. I’ve always thought the Boston Braves were named after the Sons of Liberty who dressed up as Native Americans for the Tea Party (same with the Washington nee’ Boston Redskins in football)–in other words, a bunch of white guys pretending to be Indians. I also thought it was the North Carolina branch of the Cherokees that supplied all those toy tomahawks to the Braves.
    My absolute favorite is in the NFL when the Redskins beat the Cowboys, although that has sadly not happened for a couple years.
    Regardless, the use of native American names, to me, is an attempt to conjure the independant and courageous spirit of my ancestors. Again, I do not find that at all insulting.
    Chief Wahoo, however, is a red-skinned version of black yard jockeys & has to go.

  13. Part Native American - Mar 26, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    Thanks for the correction.
    Buckeye Bob–re: animal activists–already done at least once: PETA tried protesting the University of South Carolina Gamecocks’ name due to the image of cock fighting. Then-coach Lou Holtz informed them that they & he’d be long gone before the name was ever changed. So far he’s at least half right.

  14. OsandRoyals - Mar 26, 2010 at 3:16 PM

    You really like the block C? I absolutely hate it, especially since it males me think I’m watching the Cubs.
    If we had to rename the Indians what would you choose?Preferably something related to the Cleveland area

  15. Ron - Mar 26, 2010 at 3:31 PM

    Indians do describe themselves as ‘Indians’. Ever heard of AIM, the American Indian Movement.
    They also refer to themselves as ‘Skins.

  16. The Common Man - Mar 26, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    First, yes, I think we should get rid of the “Redskins” name. It’s a slur and is patently offensive.
    Second, Craig’s not talking about removing the Indians’ name, just their cartoon caricature of an Indian that is almost, but not quiete, as bad as the Indians in Disney’s Peter Pan.
    Third, really, you think “pirates” and “cowboys” (professions) are analogous to “Indians” and “Redskins” (words to describe people of a particular race)? What the hell is wrong with you?

  17. Andy H - Mar 26, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    How about this for a logo:

  18. Don in Dallas - Mar 26, 2010 at 3:58 PM

    Maybe it would OK if they stuck Chief Wahoo in a casino…………

  19. John - Mar 26, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    Cowboys, Yankees, Vikings, Buccaneers, Raiders & Pirates. Hmmmmm… funny I didn’t realize there was a race or ethnicity of any or all of the mascots described above.
    John – “Hey Bob what are you anyway, a Cowboy or a Raider?”
    Bob – “Actually my friend I’m both a Raider and a Cowboy for my maternal grandfather’s mother was 100% Raider, and he was half Raider and half Cowboy. Which means that I’m at least 1/8 Raider, but it’s actually more, because on my dad’s side, we’re total Pirates, and there’s a lot of Raider in that mix.”

  20. Jaime Z - Mar 27, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    Craig, you obviously are not from Cleveland. You do not keep an icon like Chief Wahoo for your multi hundred million dollar franchise unless you respect and admire its history and place in your city. Whatever distorted view of this you have, it is incorrect. Ever hear of Larry Doby, Frank Robinson, etc. Please concentrate on politics somewhere else, for whatever that is worth. Also I think your evaluation is WRONG! Too much talent and it is our year to get some better years from these guys. Choo is one of the games underrated players. You dismiss him as extra luggage. Easy to dump on the INDIANS. CLEVELAND INDIANS WITH CHIEF WAHOO! GO TRIBE!

  21. Old Gator - Mar 28, 2010 at 12:05 PM

    “You do not keep an icon like Chief Wahoo for your multi hundred million dollar franchise unless you respect and admire its history and place in your city.”
    Uh-huh. And a lot of rural Austrians (and the occasional Appalachian states trailer trashman) still feel the same way about their swastikas.
    And what’s with this aversion to politics anyway? Are there really a few of you out there who still believe that baseball exists in some pure Brigadoon dimension of
    fan loyalty, childhood iconology and cherished memories? And how do you think all those stadiums got built anyway in communities where popular sentiment was so overwhelmingly averse to building them on the public till? Surely not…politics. No-o-o. Please. Baseball, money and politics are, will be and always were inseparable from each other. All that’s happened is that most of us have lost our innocence. Those of you who are apparently arriving from deep space in your cryogenic cylinders, or have just been freed by global warming from the avalanche that buried you during the late Pleistocene along with your pet mammoth, need to shake the icicles from your eyes and have another look.

  22. Jaime Z - Mar 30, 2010 at 3:43 PM

    Okaaaay! Well, Old Gator you sound like a fun guy to go to a game with. I grew up in inner city Cleveland, went to my first game in 1965 as the Indians hosted the Yankees. Mickey Mantle hit a three run shot over the center field fence and we lost 5-0. Anyway, just a little childhood reflection as I digest your hyperbole. The bottom line is this, in simplistic terms. The caricature of chief wahoo was a symbol of my hometown baseball team, that I loved and admired and still do. Thankfully I was not inundated with bloggers back then to tell me I was a racist child who should not accept this symbol. I believe it to be honorable as a visual represenative of the Cleveland Indians franchise and admire it for what it is. Does it surprise me that people now associate it with Facism?, as in your referance. No, but it is disappointing, with so many other important areas to direct your energy. Surely somebody with your extensive and deep understanding of vocabulary and history must realize how over the top you sound. I am hoping you find whatever you are looking for.

  23. Mr. Henkie - Apr 2, 2010 at 9:31 AM

    I agree totally with the get rid of Wahoo crowd. Why is this emblem necessary? Be gone with it.
    For the record, most who don’t like Wahoo, have no problem with the team name, just the grinning red man. I think that even if there weren’t reacist undertones, it is real ugly.
    as for the team, the pitching looks brutal, though could surprise due to amount of unknowns. The hitting could be interesting, with Acta seeming to prefer a more “national” league approach.

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