The Season That Wasn’t

We’re into August, and the Cleveland Indians are out of it.

Not just out of the race for a playoff spot, but out of sight, out of mind, and out of the national consciousness.  If you go on ESPN, you have to click “show all” to find out whether the sorry Tribesmen have won or, more likely, lost — probably in a shutout.

This is the season that wasn’t.  A team that some predicted to win the World Series has never really been in contention, or even generated much excitement.  There have been no thrilling winning streaks, or key series.  The poor Indians have to scratch and claw just to score one run.  It would suck to be a pitcher on this team — you feel that you need to throw a shutout to even have a chance of winning.  The pressure on the pitchers must be immense, every game.

I’m not blaming Terry Francona.  He can’t get up there and swing the bat, and he’s doing the best he can with a team comprised of batters who may someday aspire to reach the level of “banjo hitters.”  I’m not sure what can be done with them — and right now I don’t much care.

I was thinking the other day of the glory years of the mid-90s, when the Tribe fielded a murderers’ row lineup that included the likes of Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, Omar Vizquel, and Sandy Alomar, among others.  I looked forward to watching their games after work, because it was fun baseball and you never felt that they were ever really out of a game no matter how big the other team’s lead.  Now . . . not so much.  It’s time to move on to college football.

Joe Or No Joe

With the calendar turning to August, it’s officially the silly season in American politics.  On the Republican side, a loudmouthed, self-promoting, angry anti-politician is leading in the polls, and 10 of 17 declared presidential candidates will crowd onto the stage to have a “debate” on Thursday.  And on the Democratic side, politicos and pundits are talking seriously about drafting Joe Biden to throw his hat in the ring.

Wait a second . . . Joe Biden?  72-year-old, two-time also-ran, vice president Joe Biden?

Evidently so.  There’s apparently concern in some Democratic quarters about Hillary Clinton being damaged goods.  Her trustworthiness numbers aren’t good — whether it is because of her State Department email server fiasco, or because everything she does and says seems so carefully scripted and calibrated, or for some other reason — and she hasn’t exactly been lighting it up on the campaign trail.  In fact, there seems to be a lot more excitement about Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a socialist who has been drawing big crowds in the early decision states.  So while Hillary has raised tons of money and signed up legions of heavyweight staffers and fundraisers, people are beginning to wonder whether her nomination is as inevitable and certain as, say, Ed Muskie in 1972.

But if you think Hillary Clinton may not be the best candidate to carry the Democratic banner, where do you turn?  America isn’t likely to elect a 70-something socialist, and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley doesn’t exactly have people buzzing.  Most of the leading Democratic politicians on the national scene don’t seem especially keen to take on the Clinton political machine.  That leaves good old Joe.  He’s been on the national Democratic scene forever, he’s a known commodity, and although he’s been a gaffe machine in his prior races he’s one of those pols who seems to love being on the campaign trail — whereas Hillary Clinton seems to consider it to be a painful hassle.

I have no idea whether Joe Biden will end up running — he’s just lost his son to cancer, but once the presidential bug bites it’s hard to shake the obsessive lure of the Oval Office.  What’s more interesting to me is that the national Democratic bench seems so shallow — and, with the exception of O’Malley, so long in the tooth.  Why aren’t the party bigwigs talking about Democratic governors (other than California’s Jerry Brown, who is 77), or Senators like Ohio’s Sherrod Brown?  Why aren’t more up-and-coming Ds willing to risk a long-shot run, like Bill Clinton did in 1992?