Mike Hargrove said it when he was managing the Cleveland Indians, there are two things that every man thinks he can better than everyone else, those are cooking a steak and managing a baseball team.
And despite winning two World Series and getting to a third, Terry Francona still hears his share of questions about how he handles the Cleveland Indians. Heck, half the fun of watching a baseball game is trying to manage along with your favorite team’s skipper.
We do it too, we aren’t going to deny it.
The Indians rank 9th in the American League in spite of being second last in the league in batting average. Yes, we know batting average isn’t in vogue right now, so they are also 14th in the AL in on base percentage.
They are doing it with a team that really only has five regulars: Jose Ramirez at 3B, Cesar Hernandez at 2B, Eddie Rosario in LF, Franmil Reyes at DH, and when healthy, Roberto Perez behind the plate.
Everyday, Francona has to decide who should play at shortstop, first base, centerfield and right field. Now, Josh Naylor has been in the lineup somewhere on an everyday basis, so he’s either at first or in right. But, Francona has to mix and match at three spots on a nightly basis.
He’s tried going with the hot hand. Jordan Luplow was hot earlier in the season, culminating in a walk off HR against Minnesota. So, he started getting regular playing time. He responded by going 1 for 22 over a seven game stretch.
Amed Rosario had four hits, including the game winner Wednesday afternoon against the Cubs. He started the first three games of the Seattle series at shortstop in place of a struggling Andres Gimenez, and went 1 for 12.
Harold Ramirez came up for the Kansas City series and gave the offense a spark, getting four hits in the first two games. He followed that with a 2 for 18 stretch, before getting two hits, including a home run in last night’s 7-3 loss to the Mariners.
At first base, everyone thought it was a matter of time before Jake Bauers would be replaced by Bobby Bradley as the left-handed hitting platoon. However, it’s the right-handed half that seems to have lost his job.
Yu Chang pinch hit last night, but hasn’t been in the lineup vs. southpaws over the past week. Going 7 for 50 with just two extra base hits seems to have cost him his job, and soon, perhaps his roster spot.
At AAA, Bradley has started off just 6 for 37 with 15 strikeouts. He has belted three homers.
Bauers isn’t exactly tearing the cover off the ball either, and that has resulted in Naylor playing more at first.
Our point is that it’s a tremendous challenge for Francona and whoever helps him make out the lineup to put a competitive attack out there. Consistency is the best feature a professional athlete can have, and the Indians don’t have many consistent hitters.
And before you say just bring up players from AAA, it has to be a good fit. The last thing the organization wants is for a top prospect to come up and get sporadic playing time. It generally doesn’t help the development of the player.
That said, we believe some changes will be coming soon.
The pitching has for the most part held up their end of the bargain. We’ve said it before, how successful the Cleveland Indians will be depends on how many runs they can score.
Terry Francona has a challenge getting his team to do that with the current make up of the team.