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Saying goodbye to the Cleveland Indians

When the Lake Erie Warriors storm the field today at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario for the last time during the 2015 Major League baseball season, there will be little fanfare for a team that was branded contenders way back in spring training. Instead, the Tribe will be looking to finish one game over .500, which more-or-less sums up a season that clearly can be branded a disappointment.

The 2015 Cleveland Indians season started with such pronounced optimism, with baseball experts across the board predicted big things, including that now-infamous Sports Illustrated World Series prediction (goto hell SI). Instead of taking the next big step that many have been waiting for since Terry Francona arrived almost three years ago to the day, the Indians will finish with their third straight season of diminishing return.

Yes, the Indians have been over .500 for two straight years, and with a win today, could make it three.

Yes, the Indians were far worse than that in their previous five seasons leading into 2013, Francona's first season. But two of those five "bad" seasons prior to Tito finished at a near identical record to 2014 and were deemed failures or stepping stones. In 2008, Eric Wedge led a team that came one-game away from the World Series to an 81-81 record, and was gone after a 2009 season that fell into an abyss. In 2011, there was optimism when Manny Acta led the Tribe to an 80-82 record, but that glass half full was quickly shattered the following year, when Acta completely lost touch with the team on their way to a 68-94 season, and was kicked out of the organization before the season ended.

Enter Francona.

If you've read this far, you already know the details. Francona led the team to 92 wins in his first season, including a ten-game run to a one-game playoff with Tampa. While they lost that game, with a young, blooming rotation, and prospects and talent beginning to show their faces, it looked like things were bright. The Indians followed with an 85-77 season in 2014, and while they didn't make the playoffs, it was considered a win for a team that had to figure out several positions and rotation spots on the fly.

With everything in place, 2015 would be the year. They had one of the best managers in baseball. They had a young rotation that showcased wipeout potential. They had a core group of players, signed for several years. And then there was Francisco Lindor, the wunderkind poker chip that the team could play if they started struggling.

But nothing worked long enough for the Indians to sustain the type of winning streak to overtake the middling American League teams that were battling for the wildcard, let alone the Royals, who ran away with the Division title.

Jose Ramirez looked like a Quad A player at short, instead of the stop-gap he became in 2014. Yan Gomes missed six weeks. Michael Brantley was hurt much of the season. Carlos Santana wasn't quite Carlos. Michael Bourn was bad, and Nick Swisher was quite literally non-existent. The bullpen was shaky, while the rotation proved to be the stability point for a team that could have been a lot worse than they were early in the season.

By the time the team buoyed themselves in August, it was too late. It felt like a massive run in basketball in the third quarter, that ended with an exhausted team in the fourth.

So with the season about to end, it's time to say goodbye to your 2015 Cleveland Indians. Here are some players that I will hopefully say adios, and some who might go whether I like it or not. Cue Boys 2 Men.

1. Goodbye Jerry Sands. You likely weren't as bad as people thought (yes you were). While you only played in 50 games, it somehow felt like 150. This is no offense to you. You reached your dream this year. Now, help me understand my dream of enjoying a team that doesn't field a player that clogs the way of actual future big league players from doing exactly what you did, and no doubt better. My god, you made me miss Shelley Duncan, and Aaron "Freakin'" Cunningham. No kidding.

2. Goodbye (?) Lonnie Chisenhall. I don't know what the hell you were doing out in right field, but you made yourself look like an actual big league ballplayer. It's about this time in my Chis-rants that people begin to question my sanity and talk about how good a fielder he is or could be, and how everything averages out to a decent, everyday baseball player. So without ranting, I'll just say this: He has moments of utter brilliance, usually followed by a whole lot more moments of utter "poopenhall." Yes, he could really be a platoon guy out there, but I feel like the Indians have two or three spots to improve this team, and I'm not ready to gamble another one of our "window" years on "Poopenhall," are you? Remember 2014, when Lonnie exploded to start the year, the imploded to finish? While he's looked good in his first turn in right, could he become the Jose Ramirez of 2015? I say likely. Keep him as a bench guy if you must, but if you ship him to the Australian League, I won't be sad. Oh, Happy Birthday Lonnie!

3. Bryan Shaw, I can ABSOLUTELY quit you. Really, this pertains to any bullpen arm, ever, but I've always had a particular distaste for you in the pen. You can be amazing. You can throw the ball so that it moves in ways magicians can only dream of. But when you don't, you resemble a not-very-good softball pitcher, and we're talking slo-pitch. I suppose you could throw a few others in this mix as well, but why walk down that road. Just know that the only member of the pen that I want to stay here with any sense of urgency is Cody Allen, and that only goes so far as how much he makes. You need a great pen, but from year-to-year, that's not easy to do. Especially with Bryan Shaw playing an important role. Oh, and I see you Manship. I see you.

4. I honestly don't think you are going anywhere Mike Aviles, but you should. Okay, I'm a Dad, and I love my kids. He's a Dad, and he loves his kids. What he had to go through this year has been excruciating for me as a father. I couldn't imagine going through it, and I've spent many days and nights hoping and praying that your beautiful daughter is healthy and happy. You are a great father. If the Indians decide to keep you here, I certainly would understand the perspective of the front office. From a pure position standpoint though, the team ceases to be a fit for you and your salary, when Jose Ramirez can do everything you can, and likely more. No, he isn't the leader you are clearly in the clubhouse, but sometimes to have a couple million, you have to sacrifice that type of player, to build others.

5. So what about Carlos Santana? I know that to breathe his name in this column is akin to having a nation position their nuclear warheads at me, but the question has to be asked. Will the Indians try and move Santana? I'm not going to pro and con his play. We know what he's good at, and we know that the fit doesn't seem to be quite right. Now, this is likely not Santana's fault in that Francona just doesn't put him somewhere in the line-up that he's better suited to. That said Carlos, you do whine at times about that said position when you are there. So I'll throw this on both the player, and the manager. His value is likely still high for some teams, so you move him if you can find a sizable return. If you can't, don't.

6. So how long, Trevor Bauer, do you get to make your very own choices on your game prep, and when does the team come before the player? I like his quirks, if I'm to be honest. I like it when he pitches really good. I herald his tire pushing and twitter-asking mechanics and long tossing from Cleveland to Erie. When it doesn't work, I have no problem jumping off the bandwagon and pondering why in the hell Francona and Mickey Callaway would let this kid dictate his own terms. I know, get what you paid for. I think they did. Let's hope everyone wakes up, and if not, see if you can get something for him. He's a young starter that looks damn good at times. Should be a market there.

7. I don't think Abraham Almonte is going anywhere, but we should say goodbye to his tenure as the regular in center. If the Indians utilize Almonte and Chisenhall as their two utility outfielders, I'd be content with that. When you incorporate Chris Johnson into the equation, you could even make a righty/lefty comp, and while the thought of Chisenhall AND Chris Johnson on this roster makes me dry heave, there IS some sense to it, if only because Johnson's albatross of a contract isn't going anywhere. My preference is Almonte, with a fond farewell to Johnson and Chisenhall, if you haven't figured that out yet. I'd be ecstatic to see a new center and right fielder patrolling the Indians outfield, perhaps starting with Josh Reddick,, but I digress.

8. Roberto Perez is a valuable back-up catcher, so it's interesting to talk about a move that includes him. I've heard people get huffy and puffy about a one-up deal involving Perez, since "there's no way he gets you a quality starting player." He could, as I've seen GMs do better with much worse. Antonetti thrives on deals involving players like Perez, so I would be shocked to see him here next year, and equally shocked to see him not bring back a player that factors into the season in a big way. You know, the A's could use a catcher...hmmmmm....

9. Goodbye baseball season, you will be missed. I'll miss the Indians during the winter months. Sure, there's fall and winter ball, but it's just not the same. Snow doesn't depress me nearly as much as the end of the season, even if it did leave a lot to be desired. I'll miss this rotation, and Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez playing like a mini-thug.

Goodbye 2015 Cleveland Indians. May you begat a 2016 team that fronts magazine covers next October, instead of March.
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