Back in February, I challenged the notion that expanded playoffs — which are evidently here to stay, according to Rob Manfred — would not incentivize more teams to make a postseason push, but rather provide a playoff path for teams that believe chanting, “Anything can happen in October,” is an acceptable alternative to investing in improving their roster for a World Series run.
And here we are, as the Cleveland Indians are on a seven-game slide and staring up at both the White Sox and the Twins in the standings with less than two weeks left in the regular season, yet have a 97.9% chance of making the playoffs according to FanGraphs.
Is the goal to make the postseason or to win the World Series? If the former, the Indians must clear the low bar of besting the Detroit Tigers and the Seattle Mariners — two teams currently below .500 — to be able to claim the coveted No. 8 seed in the American League and thus call their season a success. Huzzah! What an accomplishment that would be.
And if the goal is to win the World Series, well ... That ain’t happening. Not with this crew.
That’s the problem for me. You can tell yourself, “Anything can happen in October,” but this particular cast of characters would need a minor miracle to hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy. Larry David once said on Curb Your Enthusiasm, “I would like to tell my wife I look like Brad Pitt, but unfortunately, she can see.” And I’d like to think the Indians are a World Series contender, but unfortunately I’ve been watching them for the last 48 games.
I know I’m probably going to get raked over the coals for continuing to beat this drum, but I’m not satisfied with a front office that is content to take their chances on a bargain bin lineup. “Anything can happen in October,” is a fun mentality for fans, but it should never be the guiding philosophy of an entire organization. I mean, Indians catchers rank 29th in the league in wRC+ (32) this season and the outfield ranks 29th as well (50). This is the lineup Cleveland wants to take their chances with in October? You’d have better luck praying for angels to appear in the outfield.
Granted, the Indians did go all-in back in 2017 and were promptly bounced from the playoffs. But as a fan, I’d much rather exit the first round knowing the organization put their best foot forward, as opposed to a first round exit that feels like a foregone conclusion because the organization settled for mediocrity for the sake of balancing the budget.
So this is my plea to the front office: Stop trying to have it both ways. Your efforts to avoid a rebuild have been admirable, but the fact of the matter is that this team has not advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2016. You’ve built one of the best rotations in baseball with homegrown talent, but even their pre-arbitration salaries have not loosened ownership’s grip on the company credit card. So please trade Francisco Lindor. Wish César Hernández well in free agency. Decline the club options for Carlos Santana and Brad Hand. Go even further than that. Drop the Weekend at Bernie’s act and commit to a rebuild. Because honestly I’d rather endure a frustrating present knowing I can at least be excited about the future.
Right now, all I see is a front office trying desperately to prop open a window that is clearly broken.