The Cleveland Indians played 2013 with something to prove. They put a number of new players together, and by the time the regular season ended, they complied 92 wins, overachieving in the eyes of nearly everyone around the MLB. They did it with a scrappy offense that at times had major struggles scoring runs, and didn’t have nearly the power numbers as other teams in the American League. The bullpen seemed to be a mess at times, as closer Chris Perez was a mess and set-up man Vinnie Pestano never got going. The pitching staff had its moments, led by the 14 wins by Justin Masterson.
All together though, this was a team that was led by the emotion of its key players in the locker room, players like Nick Swisher, Jason Giambi, Jason Kipnis and Michael Bourn. They turned tough situations into positives, but thus far in 2014, have yet to take those moments to another level; this is why the team walks into Sunday’s series finale against the San Francisco Giants 11-13, just games under .500, but still in last in the AL Central 24 games into the 2014 campaign.
They just haven’t shown the spark in 2014 as of yet, and while it may come, right now the team is struggling to find it, as emotion isn’t enough to lift them over tough circumstances. Take Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Giants, as the team entered the 5th inning up 3-0, yet a collapse by pitcher Zach McAllister led to the Giants plating five runs, and like a runaway train, there was no stopping another setback. McAllister was the team’s best pitcher heading into Saturday, but after sailing through four innings, he just didn’t do enough to avoid the loss. McAllister showed what appeared to be frustration after the inning when told by manager Terry Francona that he was being pulled.
TV cameras showed McAllister grumble what appeared to be a profanity and then head to the clubhouse. While it was a minor sign, it was tough to see a quiet guy like McAllister lose his cool. Swisher, who always seems to be the outward voice of the locker room, is off to a tough start, hitting just .227 with two homers and 10 RBI. He needs to get going at the plate, and it seems once he starts hitting better, his confidence will start to spread throughout the locker room again.
The team took on a phrase for 2014 — “Unfinished Business.” It’s something that comes from completing the task of what they failed to accomplish in 2013, losing to the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card game. They have yet to live up to that in 2014, needing more from their core players, and some support from the rest of the roster in order to get back to the energy and confidence that wound up making them a surprise contender in 2013.