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The April struggles of the Cleveland Indians

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April continues to be the cruelest month for the Tribe. As the team approaches Opening Day, there are a few concerns that must be addressed.

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The Indians have an average record of 1-27 in the month of April this decade according to my memory and the pile of empty Rye of the Tiger bottles I found last spring but could not recall drinking.

Why can't the Indians field a team that performs at the beginning of the season? For a couple of years now we've had a team that seems to assess its position mid-season — usually poor — and only then decide to turn it to eleven. I'm sure that Jason Kipnis would punch me in the face if I said that to him at a bar; these guys play hard every day. Despite that, I can't help but wonder what keeps this team from playing well before summer. It's not like this is a team of Jorge Solers that need to wear thirty-eight layers in May.

It's a sickness that the team can't seem to shake. One of the most appalling symptoms is the inexplicable inability to hit home runs with runners on base.  At least the first ten home runs hit last season were all solo shots, which is a lot like digging your own grave with a spork. Earl Weaver said, "Pitching keeps you in the games. Home runs win the game", and he specifically cherished the three-run home run. His analysis holds up well; when hitting at least one such home run, Weaver's Orioles won more than 82% of their games. It's not exactly a new idea to suggest that guys should hit the ball very, very far as often as possible, but we have pitching that will certainly keep us in games.

This brings me to the next symptom, which is related: run support. Or, more specifically, Ace support. Kluber did not record a winning decision until May 13th last season. In April, the Indians scored ten runs during his starts. In June, only nine. Kluber certainly struggled at times during the beginning of the year, and there's not much the team can do differently on a specific day when it comes to scoring runs. My hope is that some of this unusual luck ends. It's incredibly frustrating to have the best starter on the mound and fail to give him more than two runs even one time; last season, the Indians did it nineteen times.

Nineteen times, Carlos Santana hit a home run for the Indians. He led the team. It will have been nineteen years since the Indians reached the World Series this year, and I begin to wonder at this point whether or not the Indians are stuck in a cruel Stephen King novel. Are we certain that Rob Manfred isn't the Crimson King? The only player to lead a team with fewer home runs last season was Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves, who "slugged" eighteen dingers. It's been documented that the Tribe want to add some power bats to complement its stable of gunslinging pitchers. Many have speculated as to their whereabouts, but unfortunately acquiring even one appears to be as difficult as reaching the Dark Tower.

Such an undertaking is made much easier when one of the best players on the team is not sidelined by injury. In 2014, Kipnis suffered an oblique injury, and his production dragged for the rest of the year. Last season, Yan Gomes nearly died tweaked his knee in a collision with now-teammate Rajai Davis, and his production dragged for the rest of the year. This season, Michael Brantley is overcoming a shoulder surgery, and I refuse to complete this sentence I'm just not going to do it the baseball gods can't make me curse my own team

So blame ailments, a curse, or the twisted fingers of a cruel god clacking away at creation's typewriter, we won't know anything until real baseball begins two weeks from today. And even if the Indians begin with a hot streak, remember that the 2002 Indians cruised to an 11-1 start. They finished at 74-88, proving that an excellent couple of weeks at the beginning of the year can quickly become meaningless. However, it is much, much easier to chase October baseball when the team isn't seven games below .500 before the first of May.

The team deserves a better start this season. With a little bit of health, better luck with runners on-base, and a general avoidance of the number nineteen, the Indians will perform better this April than in past seasons.