Terry Pluto: Frustrated with first place?

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Complain about first? Fans find a way

When it comes to the Indians, I receive a lot of e-mails like this one from Bob (no last names, please) of Akron. He’s a great fan and loves the local teams, but after complaining about the Indians not scoring runs and Kenny Lofton being doubled off first base when he ran wild on a fly ball to the outfield he wrote, ”It’s really hard to take the Tribe seriously any longer.”

Some of this is due to frustration, a fan seeing the Central Division as wide open and the Indians not kicking down the door to claim it. But they are in first place.

Heading into Monday night’s game against the Minnesota Twins, they had the fourth-best record in the American League. They are coming off a 7-3 trip. In the past two weeks, they have won 3-of-5 from the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers.

There’s a good chance the Tribe will be in the playoffs.

Other e-mails are like this one from a fan named Mike, who wrote, ”It’s very hard to make the playoffs or make any noise in the postseason with an offense that is de-accelerating down the stretch. . . .

ease see Pluto, C3

How about (Asdrubal) Cabrera? How about Frankie Gutierrez? It makes one wonder how a couple of fans like us can recognize talent before the manager does.”

He wasn’t done.

”I’ve lost all respect for (General Manager Mark) Shapiro as well,” Mike wrote. ”They continue to play (Jhonny) Peralta just to save face.”

Where to begin?

Peralta went into Monday night hitting .277 with 18 home runs and 63 RBI. He is second among all American League shortstops in homers, fifth in RBI, seventh with a .379 on-base percentage.

His defense is better than last year, but he’s still not average.

Peralta is not Tom Veryzer. He’s not Jack Heidemann. He’s not Larry Brown and he’s not Felix Fermin or Frank Duffy. Those are just some of the Tribe’s starting shortstops in the past 40 years.

He’s also not Omar Vizquel, and some fans will never forgive him for that.

And these are not the 1995 Indians, and some fans will never forgive them for that.

And the Dolans are cheap, or at least that’s the common theme with many fans, and they won’t forgive ownership for that.

I grew up with the Indians of the 1960s. In that decade, their highest finish was third, and still 161/2 games out of first place. In those 10 years, they never were closer than 15 games from the top.

Perhaps you knew the Indians of the 1970s. They never were nearer than 14 games out, and their best finish was fourth place. They had two winning records in those 10 years.

Maybe you came to the Tribe in the 1980s. That team never was higher than fifth place and had two winning records in 10 years.

That’s a 30-year span with five winning records, and never playing a meaningful game in the month of September.

For those of us in those dark decades of Tribe baseball, what would we have given to follow a team like the 2007 Tribe? It’s nearly September. The Indians are in first place. It’s not like they are barely above .500; they had a 72-57 record entering the big series with the Twins.

If they make the playoffs, they probably would go in with a better record than the 2006 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals (83-78) or the 1997 World Series Tribe team (86-75). In case you missed it, this team is not terrible.

Nonetheless, I receive endless e-mails about how Casey Blake can’t hit with runners in scoring position.

”He ranks 148 out of 151 major-league hitters with runners in scoring position,” wrote Brian of Chicago. He wanted someone anyone to bat for Blake in a clutch situation of a recent game in Kansas City.

Based on my e-mails, if you dig deep enough, Blake might be behind the collapse of all those subprime mortgages.

I can tell you that Blake (.261, 15 HR, 61 RBI) is having a year as good as or better than such third basemen as the Oakland Athletics’ Eric Chavez (.240, 15 HR, 46 RBI), the Toronto Blue Jays’ Troy Glaus (.252, 17 HR, 54 RBI) and the Tigers’ Brandon Inge (.238, 12 HR, 56 RBI). The Twins are playing Nick Punto (.201, 1 HR, 22 RBI in 388 at-bats) at third.

Blake is hitting a dismal .174 with runners in scoring position. For his career, he’s .224. Yet he has come up in those situations more than any other Tribe hitter. That’s the fault of Indians manager Eric Wedge, who should drop Blake to the bottom of the order.

He’s still a valuable player. Furthermore, as a team, the Indians are terrible with runners in scoring position. Their .253 average is 26th out of 30 teams. Travis Hafner (.192), David Dellucci (.167), Trot Nixon (.224) and even Ryan Garko (.247) have struggled in the clutch.

Peralta, the guy they play just to save face? He’s hitting .292 with runners in scoring position.

All is not right with the Tribe.

The Indians do drive any fan to distraction when they waste tremendous pitching performances, as they have of late with C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. Wedge did stay with Nixon far too long.

Dellucci was a bad signing, and Josh Barfield lost his starting second base job.

They regrouped by playing Gutierrez in the outfield and calling up Cabrera from the minors. They have patched a leaky starting rotation, replacing Cliff Lee and Jeremy Sowers with Carmona and Aaron Laffey.

This is a team built on pitching, with a 3.75 ERA since the All-Star break. Don’t ask how, just know that Joe Borowski leads the league in saves. Jake Westbrook is 3-1 with a 1.56 ERA in his past six starts.

The big picture is positive. The Indians entered Monday’s game with a 31-20 record in the Central Division, the best of any team. That’s a key to making the playoffs. The Tigers are 25-26, the Twins are 21-26.

The Indians are 22-20 in one-run games, which had been a problem in the past.

Whine bout the Tribe? Go ahead. There’s room for criticism.

Just remember the team is good enough to be worthy of complaining about.

When it comes to the Indians, I receive a lot of e-mails like this one from Bob (no last names, please) of Akron. He’s a great fan and loves the local teams, but after complaining about the Indians not scoring runs and Kenny Lofton being doubled off first base when he ran wild on a fly ball to the outfield he wrote, ”It’s really hard to take the Tribe seriously any longer.”

Some of this is due to frustration, a fan seeing the Central Division as wide open and the Indians not kicking down the door to claim it. But they are in first place.

Heading into Monday night’s game against the Minnesota Twins, they had the fourth-best record in the American League. They are coming off a 7-3 trip. In the past two weeks, they have won 3-of-5 from the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers.

There’s a good chance the Tribe will be in the playoffs.

Other e-mails are like this one from a fan named Mike, who wrote, ”It’s very hard to make the playoffs or make any noise in the postseason with an offense that is de-accelerating down the stretch. . . .

ease see Pluto, C3

How about (Asdrubal) Cabrera? How about Frankie Gutierrez? It makes one wonder how a couple of fans like us can recognize talent before the manager does.”

He wasn’t done.

”I’ve lost all respect for (General Manager Mark) Shapiro as well,” Mike wrote. ”They continue to play (Jhonny) Peralta just to save face.”

Where to begin?

Peralta went into Monday night hitting .277 with 18 home runs and 63 RBI. He is second among all American League shortstops in homers, fifth in RBI, seventh with a .379 on-base percentage.

His defense is better than last year, but he’s still not average.

Peralta is not Tom Veryzer. He’s not Jack Heidemann. He’s not Larry Brown and he’s not Felix Fermin or Frank Duffy. Those are just some of the Tribe’s starting shortstops in the past 40 years.

He’s also not Omar Vizquel, and some fans will never forgive him for that.

And these are not the 1995 Indians, and some fans will never forgive them for that.

And the Dolans are cheap, or at least that’s the common theme with many fans, and they won’t forgive ownership for that.

I grew up with the Indians of the 1960s. In that decade, their highest finish was third, and still 161/2 games out of first place. In those 10 years, they never were closer than 15 games from the top.

Perhaps you knew the Indians of the 1970s. They never were nearer than 14 games out, and their best finish was fourth place. They had two winning records in those 10 years.

Maybe you came to the Tribe in the 1980s. That team never was higher than fifth place and had two winning records in 10 years.

That’s a 30-year span with five winning records, and never playing a meaningful game in the month of September.

For those of us in those dark decades of Tribe baseball, what would we have given to follow a team like the 2007 Tribe? It’s nearly September. The Indians are in first place. It’s not like they are barely above .500; they had a 72-57 record entering the big series with the Twins.

If they make the playoffs, they probably would go in with a better record than the 2006 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals (83-78) or the 1997 World Series Tribe team (86-75). In case you missed it, this team is not terrible.

Nonetheless, I receive endless e-mails about how Casey Blake can’t hit with runners in scoring position.

”He ranks 148 out of 151 major-league hitters with runners in scoring position,” wrote Brian of Chicago. He wanted someone anyone to bat for Blake in a clutch situation of a recent game in Kansas City.

Based on my e-mails, if you dig deep enough, Blake might be behind the collapse of all those subprime mortgages.

I can tell you that Blake (.261, 15 HR, 61 RBI) is having a year as good as or better than such third basemen as the Oakland Athletics’ Eric Chavez (.240, 15 HR, 46 RBI), the Toronto Blue Jays’ Troy Glaus (.252, 17 HR, 54 RBI) and the Tigers’ Brandon Inge (.238, 12 HR, 56 RBI). The Twins are playing Nick Punto (.201, 1 HR, 22 RBI in 388 at-bats) at third.

Blake is hitting a dismal .174 with runners in scoring position. For his career, he’s .224. Yet he has come up in those situations more than any other Tribe hitter. That’s the fault of Indians manager Eric Wedge, who should drop Blake to the bottom of the order.

He’s still a valuable player. Furthermore, as a team, the Indians are terrible with runners in scoring position. Their .253 average is 26th out of 30 teams. Travis Hafner (.192), David Dellucci (.167), Trot Nixon (.224) and even Ryan Garko (.247) have struggled in the clutch.

Peralta, the guy they play just to save face? He’s hitting .292 with runners in scoring position.

All is not right with the Tribe.

The Indians do drive any fan to distraction when they waste tremendous pitching performances, as they have of late with C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. Wedge did stay with Nixon far too long.

Dellucci was a bad signing, and Josh Barfield lost his starting second base job.

They regrouped by playing Gutierrez in the outfield and calling up Cabrera from the minors. They have patched a leaky starting rotation, replacing Cliff Lee and Jeremy Sowers with Carmona and Aaron Laffey.

This is a team built on pitching, with a 3.75 ERA since the All-Star break. Don’t ask how, just know that Joe Borowski leads the league in saves. Jake Westbrook is 3-1 with a 1.56 ERA in his past six starts.

The big picture is positive. The Indians entered Monday’s game with a 31-20 record in the Central Division, the best of any team. That’s a key to making the playoffs. The Tigers are 25-26, the Twins are 21-26.

The Indians are 22-20 in one-run games, which had been a problem in the past.

Whine bout the Tribe? Go ahead. There’s room for criticism.

Just remember the team is good enough to be worthy of complaining about.

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