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Indians Season In Review: Indians Look To Next Year Again; Will 2011 Finally Be 'Next Year'?

'Next Year' is a popular phrase with Indians fans. Will 2011 finally be 'next year'?

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This is me talking to myself, pondering about the Indians 2010 season and the results, or lack thereof, that they produced. Despite the Indians' struggles, my conscience and I had a lot to talk about.

Q: So...about those Indians

A: What about those Indians?

Q: How about those Indians!?

A: No, that's what you say when a team is doing well.

Q: Oh, so I take it they didn't do well?

A: Nope, they didn't. They've compiled back-to-back 90 loss seasons; 97 last year, and 93 this year. Although I have to admit, they picked it up well in the second half. They were actually on pace to lose 100 games, but they picked up at least some of their own slack. Oh look at me, here I am, satisfied with a 93-loss season. Alright, they were hard to watch at times. Okay fine, all the time. To say they even came close to being mediocre is an overstatement. And unfortunately, I don't see things getting too much better next year. They might not be good for a while.

Q: Wow, so there is no hope at all?

A: No no, there is. Despite the epic sports failures of this town we call Cleveland, the fans are always optimistic. There is usually a silver lining somewhere if you look hard enough.

Q: Oh? And why is that?

A: Well they will get two desperately needed pieces of the puzzle back next year in Grady Sizemore and Carlos Santana, so that sends at least two of their youngsters back down to the minors...

A: Also, the Tribe finished in fourth place, better than 2009. Why I'd be excited about that, I couldn't tell you. The team that they've been competing with for sole possession, the Kansas City Royals, doesn't quite have the makeup the Indians do. They've got some great names - Zack Greinke, Joakim Soria and Billy Butler, but I think the Tribe can actually use its talent to win as a team. There's a reason that Kansas City hasn't had a winning season since...

Q: I know, I know, they're pretty bad...

A: Weren't you the one that didn't know about the Tribe before? Haha.

Q: Aren't I supposed to be the one asking the questions?

A: Fair enough, let the interrogation continue.

Q: So, continue to tell me why the Indians have hope.

A: Didn't you hear that the Lake County Captains AND the Columbus Clippers won their championships? All three of the Indians minor league affiliates were in the playoffs this year. It's always a plus to have a good farm system. That's really something.

Q: True, but should the Indians' front office try and stock up your major league team, not minors?

A: Yes that is the goal, though the Indians did have to make deals this season, getting rid of Kerry Wood, Jake Westbrook, Jhonny Peralta and Austin Kearns. No question the prospects they got for these guys helped their minor league success, but that success is coming up here soon.

Q: How soon?

A: It's hard to tell. Everyone is different. I thought when the Tribe dealt Cliff Lee, C.C. Sabathia and Victor Martinez that the incoming talent for those guys would help them win. But I think they rushed those guys - Matt LaPorta, Jason Donald, Michael Brantley, Justin Masterson and Lou Marson. And we still have not seen Nick Hagadone or Jason Knapp at the big league level. Carlos Carrasco might be the only one in that group that is getting better at the moment.

Q: What do you mean rushed?

A: They came up too early, primarily because no one else was available. I said that when the Tribe cut catcher Mike Redmond, it made no sense at all. Credit Lou Marson for having a decent year defensively, but with his batting average being where it is, I don't think Marson belonged in the big leagues in 2010. And Redmond was only making around $900,000. They also got rid of Mark Grudzielanek; a guy who is 40 years old, plenty of experience, low price tag, and yet they'd prefer to call up Jason Donald for his potential (that never came, at least not this season) instead of a proven big league veteran.

Q: Didn't Grudzielanek not play for a while? For more then a year I mean?

A: Yes, but he is still more proven and is a tough out at the plate. He puts the bat on the ball, and the Indians needed that.

A: This Indians team is too young. They were one of the youngest teams in the big leagues even when they had those veterans here. Major league rosters need balance of veteran leadership and youthful talent. There was no balance this year, so the pendulum swung one way too hard, and they couldn't dig out of that hole. Hopefully next year, GM-to-be Chris Antonetti will straighten things out and get it right.

Q: So you think Shapiro got it wrong?

A: Well, not exactly. I think there were better players to get out there than what they got, especially in the Lee and Sabathia deals. The trades the Indians made this season were better, obviously. However, I do think that due to his conservativeness that Shaprio might have put the Tribe in better position to survive this recession our economy is in. Right now, the only pitcher on their roster making more then one million for the season is All-Star representative Fausto Carmona. Sure they are still paying portions of Kerry Wood and Jake Westbrook's big contracts, and Travis Hafner is still being paid around $1 million per home run (he finished with 13 and is earning around $11.5 million this year), but I think the Tribe will have its lower level talent come up and prosper, and have some pocket change simultaneously.

Q: Tell me about these guys that Indians fans should be excited about?

A: Carlos Santana is one of them. I immediately saw portions of Victor Martinez in Santana's hitting abilities. He can switch hit, and has power to the allies. He got major league experience this season too. Also, I've heard good things about Jason Kipnis - second round pick in 2008 and a key contributor to the Clippers; run at the International League Championship. Others would be Jared Goedert, Josh Rodriguez and Cord Phelps.

Q: Never heard of any of them.

A: Well, they are the future of the big league club, so you better get to know them soon...

Q: What about the others teams in the AL Central?

A: The Twins have had an amazing season. No Justin Morneau, no Joe Nathan, and they missed home field advantage, and the best record in baseball by two games. Certainly helps to have Jim Thome on you bench and fill in at DH when injured. The Tigers were a team that I didn't like much at all, but they were ok. Rookie Austin Jackson made it easier for Tiger fans to forget about Curtis Granderson. But they missed Edwin Jackson and Placido Polanco, and couldn't fill in those holes. I was in love with the Chicago White Sox. A nasty rotation of Mark Buehrle, Jake Peavy and John Danks; and a predominantly right-handed powerful lineup with Paul Konerko, Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham and Carlos Quentin. They acquired a leadoff hitter in Juan Pierre also. But their bullpen woes ended up being their Achilles' heel. And the Royals are usually never good.

Q: How was the Indians' attendance this year?

A: As bad as I've seen it in a long time, since 1992 I believe. No one wants to go to games anymore. Is there really that much to do in Cleveland? Or is it just that there aren't any diehard fans around anymore? I went to a game one night, and counted 50 people, rounding up, in the bleachers. Either way, the attendance number in the box scores rarely exceeded twenty grand.

Q: Even on fireworks night?

A: Oh my goodness. I went to Rock 'N Blast night, it was the most astonishing fireworks show I have ever seen in my entire life. It was set to classic music hits, and they blasted them from all over the stadium. They really amazed me with that marvelous display. But the thing is, people shouldn't be going to the stadium for fireworks, they should be going for Cleveland baseball.

Q: Maybe that will get people to come to games.

A: Perhaps, but for now, the Browns games are entertaining enough. Even though they aren't expected to do much this year, who can't enjoy a good NFL game on a Sunday afternoon?

Q: I was just about to ask what the ten or so thousand people who do show up to games are going to do during the offseason?

A: Winter meetings, free agency, and then, spring training. See ya in March 2011!

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.