CLEVELAND — When it comes to sports, you not only have one chance to make a first impression…
You also have one chance to make a last impression in any given season.
That’s why what happened to the Tribe in the playoffs is so discouraging.
If the Indians had been swept by Houston in a bunch of 3-2 games with a few extra innings thrown in, I’d feel better about the team.
But the Astros demolished the Tribe in the first round of the best-of-5 American League Division Series. The Indians were outscored, 21-6. They scored 2-1-3 runs over three games.
Starters Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger along with shortstop Francisco Lindor (2 HR) are excused from this discussion.
But just about everyone else in Wahoo red, white and blue delivered performances that were mediocre at best, and often downright miserable.
Maybe part of it was that Andrew Miller was never fully able to overcome his variety of injuries (shoulder, knee, hamstring). And part of it was Cody Allen never being able to find is curveball or his confidence.
As for Trevor Bauer in the bullpen, that desperation move backfired.
I still think of Bauer making two throwing errors in one inning.
Or Miller delivering a pitch in Houston that went BEHIND a hitter.
Or Allen giving up as many runs (6) as the Indians scored in all three games. And Allen pitched only one total inning.
The Indians actually had a 2-1 lead after five innings in Game 3, and they ended up losing 11-3.
The last few innings were sloppy, careless baseball.
The Tribe played the same way in Game 5 of the 2017 season against New York. They were eliminated from the ALDS by a 5-2 count, making three errors in the process.
They made three more errors in the elimination game against Houston.
The Indians pride themselves in having good guys who “play the right way.” That generally is the case.
But the collapses at the end of the playoffs in the last two years are disturbing. By the end of both seasons, the players looked mentally defeated.
The Indians have now lost their last six playoff games.
The Indians can argue otherwise, but just look at the tapes of Game 5 in 2017 and Game 3 in 2018.
They were nothing like the 2016 undermanned Tribe, who forced the Cubs into extra innings before losing Game 7 of World Series. The final score of that game was 8-7.
The Indians are likely to lose Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Josh Donaldson, Josh Tomlin, Miller and Allen. There are other less prominent free agents such as Melky Cabrera and Oliver Perez also headed to the market.
Of that group, I’d love to keep Brantley. But I expect him to be enticed away by a lucrative long-term deal elsewhere.
I can’t name the last time the Indians had a significant player reach free agency, then re-sign with the Tribe.
If they reach open market, they are gone.
But the bullpen needs nearly a complete overhaul. Brad Hand can be the closer. Perhaps Adam Cimber can help.
But something is very wrong with Miller and Allen.
Relievers are so inconsistent. Bryan Shaw ($27 million, 3 years with Colorado) and Joe Smith ($15 million, 2 years with Houston) left the Tribe last year — yet didn’t pitch well enough to make the playoff rosters for their respective teams.
Houston was the superior team. Clevinger implied the Indians didn’t do a good job with their analytic preparation for the playoffs. That came from Jason Lloyd of The Athletic.
No idea if that’s true.
I do know analytics had nothing to do with throwing strikes, catching the ball and playing sound fundamental baseball.
The personality of the team was a bit strange all season. It’s as if they spent six months awaiting the playoffs. September felt like spring training.
Key veterans Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Ramirez, Josh Donaldson, Jason Kipnis and Yonder Alonso combined for 3-for-47 at the plate!
The Indians had three extra-base hits: Lindor’s two homers, a Yandy Diaz double.
It was just an odd, unfocused year for a team with some flaws that were dramatically exposed in the playoffs. That should lead to a long off-season of soul searching for a talented team that underachieved.