Hang in there! Only four more Browns losses, and it’s over!
In the meantime, let’s move on from a hot mess to a Hot Stove. . . League.
The Indians’ lobby cowboys will head to Orlando next week for Major League Baseball’s winter meetings, the sport’s annual job fair, trade show, meat market and rumorpalooza, where the winners go home with a big-ticket item, and the losers take home a potted plant.
The Indians have followed their noisy, historic regular season — featuring an American League-record winning streak in which they won more games (22) than the Browns have won in the last six years — with a quiet offseason.
While several teams have spent their offseason pursuing Shohei Ohtani, “The Babe Ruth of Japan,” the biggest fish the Indians have landed so far is guppy Michael Martinez, “The Brent Lillibridge of the Dominican Republic.”
That’s right, Boomerang Mike is back again. Since 2015, the Indians have signed, released or traded Martinez 11 times. They’ve signed him five times in the last three years. He’s the gum stuck to the bottom of Chief Wahoo’s shoe, and a Terry Francona favorite, because he can play anywhere.
He’s also an Indians front office favorite because the Indians are apparently the only team in the majors that thinks he can play — and with good reason.
Martinez’s batting averages in his first four years in the majors: .196, .174, .175, and .128. He’s played for five major league teams. His career batting average for four of them (Phillies, Pirates, Rays and Red Sox) is .174. His career average for the Indians: .257.
No wonder they can’t get enough of him.
Martinez is the Indians’ Swiss Army Knife. But he was Swiss cheese in the biggest moment of his career, when he could have won the World Series.
With two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, the Indians, losing 8-7, had a runner at first, with Martinez at the plate.
A double would have tied the game.
A home run would have given the Indians’ their first World Series championship in 69 years.
Martinez grounded out weakly to third.
Seven months later the Indians traded him to Tampa Bay. One month after that he was released and the Indians signed him. Five months after that they released him again. One month after that they signed him again.
What can we learn from all this?
If the Browns did something like this they’d be the laughingstock of the NFL. But the Browns are already the laughingstock of the NFL, so at least they lead the Indians in something.
I don’t even know if Martinez can play football, but I’m pretty sure he could still play for the Browns.
The Indians can continue to indulge their Martinez fetish because they are the Indians. They won 104 games last season (counting the postseason), which is 104 more than the Browns have won this year.
So off to Orlando they go, well positioned to win the AL Central in 2018 for the third consecutive year, even if they do nothing at the winter meetings.
You win with pitching, and the Indians have that. That, and then some. There are those in the analytics crowd who believe that the Indians last year had the best pitching staff EVER _ and most of those pitchers will be back in 2018.
The Indians have arguably the best up-the-middle defense in the majors, with Bradley Zimmer in center field, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez at short and second, and either Yan Gomes or Roberto Perez catching.
They have the best pitcher in the league in Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, the best reliever in the league in Andrew Miller, and the best manager in the league in Francona.
But they still have needs. They will likely lose two middle-of-the-order bats, free agents Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce, plus Bryan Shaw, whose historic durabililty _ over the last five years he leads the majors in games pitched _ was never fully appreciated by Indians fans.
They’re hoping the market will bottom out on Santana and Bruce, as it did for hitters of their ilk last winter, resulting in Edwin Encarnacion falling into their lap. Hoping, not counting.
Trading for a hitter seems more likely. The Indians do have some pitching surplus. But it takes two to jitterbug.
Indians president Chris Antonetti says trades are more difficult to make than in the pre-analytics era.
“Teams are starting to value players similarly,” he said. “When that happens, it can make it hard to find matches on trades. One of the things that leads to trades is when you have different evaluations of a player. But those kinds of trades are becoming less common.”
Especially if the other team asks for Michael Martinez.