Though pretty much every Indians position player has struggled offensively at times over the first three months of the season, an inordinate amount of fan venom has been reserved for Cleveland’s most decorated player — two-time All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.
It hasn’t been aimed at Nick Swisher, who has just started to hear faint boos from the Progressive Field fans, despite earning $15 million this season in the second year of the largest free-agent contract in team history and batting .198 with five home runs and 25 RBIs in 61 games through Friday.
I guess being the president of Bro-Hio has its perks.
It hasn’t been aimed at Carlos Santana, who in the high-profiled cleanup spot in the batting order for much of the year, has hit under .200 and provided little in the run-producing department. Only until he got knocked upside the head and spent time on the concussion list did Santana start hitting. Go figure.
And it hasn’t been aimed at Cleveland’s All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis, who under veil from the disabled list, called his teammates out, yet has done little producing when healthy and on the field — entering Saturday with a .256 batting average, three homers and 22 RBIs in 53 games.
Nope, for the most part, Tribe fans, who have watched their team collectively play poorly in pretty much every facet of the game as we near the All-Star break, want to take it out on poor little Drooby.
I’m not saying Cabrera hasn’t provided plenty of fodder for the haters. The career .270 hitter was batting just .247 with eight homers and 32 RBIs in 75 games through Friday. I recognize that his 14 errors entering Saturday night accounted for the most by any big league shortstop — the highest-profiled position on the field. And I recognize that, on occasion, Cabrera does silly things at the plate and on the base paths that make you question his baseball IQ.
But I also recognize that the Indians have played terrible defense all season long, leading the majors with 67 errors through Friday. And that only one player on the team, Michael Brantley, has been a consistent offensive producer.
Cabrera’s not the only culprit, though it seems that way.
I guess all those people hating on the 28-year-old Venezuelan forgot he’s the longest tenured player on the roster — the only guy left from the Indians’ last playoff series in 2007. They made the playoffs last year, but it was a one-game, winner-take-all format.
And I guess they forgot that when he was at the peak of his career, he chose to stay in Cleveland, signing a conservative two-year contract extension worth $16.5 million, though there were bigger deals, bigger cities and perhaps better things ahead elsewhere.
Imagine that, a professional athlete taking less money to stay in Cleveland. That is a rare occurrence, indeed.
For the majority of his career with the Indians, Cabrera has been one of the best overall players in the league at his position. A couple of down seasons doesn’t warrant the punishment he’s received on talk radio and social media — not when pretty much everyone else on the team deserves the same — if not more.
Cabrera deserves more. We’re talking about a guy that not only made the All-Star team in 2011, he started for the AL, when Derek Jeter was sideline by an injury, taking his rightful spot with his far better statistics than one of baseball’s greatest all-time players.
And can we stop with the Francisco Lindor stuff? First off, the Indians’ top prospect is at Double-A Akron. Very few position players skip a level in the minors, and we’ve already seen what the guy ahead of Lindor can do — Triple-A Columbus’ Jose Ramirez, who went 2-for-25 in 11 games for Cleveland while Cabrera was on the disabled list.
Lindor may be ready defensively — he might even be better than Cabrera right now with the glove — but it’s a pretty safe bet he would be exposed by big league pitching. After all, he was at .283 in 72 games through Friday — a respectable average, but not one that screams promotion.
Besides, Lindor lovers, if your guy is called up before September, isn’t that a signal that the Indians are out of the playoff race?
So, Tribe fans, lay off Cabrera, arguably your best overall position player outside of the emerging Brantley. He’s in the final year of his contract, and with Lindor waiting in the wings, it would take a miracle for him to return in 2015.
You won’t have to worry about watching him much longer.