First of all, it’s only two games for the Cleveland Indians and any other major league baseball team. Heck, the Red Sox were picked by a lot of experts to win the World Series, and they are 0-2, the same record as the Tribe.
The Minnesota Twins are the model for fans of small market teams, like those of the Indians, and they are also 0-2. So, it is ridiculous to panic about losing the first two games of any major league baseball season.
However, for a team that needs to win back fans after two abysmal seasons, this isn’t the way to start off.
Falling behind 14-0 in the fourth inning of the home opener doesn’t help. Having your best starting pitcher give up 10 runs in three innings of work doesn’t help. Being down 5-0 in the second inning of the following game doesn’t help. The Indians need to give their supporters a reason to think things are different in 2011, but you would suspect many in Cleveland already think nothing has changed from 2009 and 2010 in terms of the competitiveness of this ballclub.
That’s not fair, but as they say “perception is reality”. And the reality for Tribe fans is this could be another terrible April, and they have seen that movie before, plenty of times in the last ten seasons.
The Indians could win today, take two of three from Boston, and finish the homestand at 3-3, and the memories of Fausto Carmona giving up a boatload of runs on Opening Day will quickly be forgotten.
Here are some good things to take away from the first two games: First, Travis Hafner has four hits in the two contests including a home run, and he’s pulling the ball. Second, Carlos Santana looks like he did when he first came up to the bigs last June, and he hit a home run right-handed on Friday, which is considered his weak side at the plate.
Also, Asdrubal Cabrera looks healthy and has driven the ball at the dish, while rookie Vinnie Pestano came on in the opener and struck out the side in the ninth.
On the negative side, the starting pitching has to keep the team in games. Now, Cleveland may be catching the White Sox on a hot streak to start the year, and the plate umpire’s strike zones have been a little inconsistent (for both teams), but you can’t dig your offense a hole day in and day out.
And Chad Durbin came in and pour gasoline on a Chicago rally, turning a 6-3 Sox lead into a tough to overcome 8-3 deficit by walking a guy and giving up a two run double to Carlos Quentin, the hottest of the White Sox hitters in the first two games. This is said because Durbin has had little or no success in the American League, and this was pointed out when the Tribe signed him.
Also, a bit concerning is Michael Brantley’s swing. He seems to be inside out swinging again, which was a problem at the beginning of last season. Brantley needs to show he can drive the ball to be an effective hitter in the bigs. Not to say he should try to hit home runs, but he needs to keep outfielders honest by showing he can hit it over their heads.
It would also help to show bunt at least once or twice a game to keep the left side of the infield honest.
Relax everybody, we are as critical of the Indians’ regime as anyone, and although an 0-2 start isn’t anything to smile about, it’s not the end of the world either.
Team president Mark Shapiro says you evaluate a team after 40 games, and that’s a little too conservative. But one sixth of the season is 27 games, and that’s a good point to start judging. There are still 25 games to go before we reach that point.