2009 has been a horrific year for the Tribe, there's no doubt about that. The on-field product is bombing and in a fire sale that rivals only the Pirates, the team has traded everything not nailed down or named Sizemore. More than likely, they would have traded Kerry Wood and Travis Hafner, but no team would take either one of them. The trades of Ryan Garko, Ben Francisco, and Cliff Lee did not affect me too deeply. Garko put up good numbers, but really he's replacable. Cliff Lee is on the wrong side of 30 and his value would never be higher. There's no way he would ever have a year as good as 2008. Up until Friday, I was not too upset, but I think I hit my tipping point. The trade of Victor Martinez is a dagger straight to my heart. I'm sure Victor and I were not the only ones in tears at the news of his trade. Martinez has been the heart and soul of the club almost ever since he broke the starting line-up. He had different handshakes for every player on the team and built a special relationship with the fans. Victor had said on multiple occasions that he did not want to leave Cleveland and wanted to retire an Indian. If it was any other player, then the situation would be different. He's a catcher going into his early 30s, so you have to wonder when he will break down, and even in his prime, he was a defensive liability. Needless to say, this is an exception. There are just certain occasions, where you just don't trade a player. Although every great Indian has left Cleveland in the past, at least the likes of Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel left on their own accord
With all this said, these are the times that a team needs fans the most. I have read many fan responses about boycotting the club or simply stop rooting for the Indians. Only being 20 years old, I pretty much grew up with the Indians winning the Central year after year, so I cannot know how fans of the team through the 70s, 80s, and early 90s feel. Things may look bleak, but now is not the time to stop cheering for the Tribe. Look at the turmoil that happened in Detroit with the Lions. Fans wore bags over their head and held "Fire Matt Millen" rallies outside Ford Field. Is it really any surprise they went 0-16? Think back to 2002. The Indians were coming off their Division Title in 2001 with high hopes for the next year. Then, the very next offseason, the team trades Roberto Alomar. Fans are up in arms. Mark Shapiro said he would have to wear a flak jacket when walking around Cleveland. To make things worse, the team trades ace of the staff Bartolo Colon mid-season. Jim Thome leaves in the off-season, crushing what is left of our hope. If you're an Indians fan, you know the rest of the story. The Tribe builds a strong minor league system around guys like Victor, Travis Hafner, Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, and assemble the best system in the majors. They come within a hair of making the playoffs in 2005 and one game of the World Series in 2007.
Believe me, this hurts. It's hard to trust management now. You get the feeling that if you cheer for anybody who starts to show some promise, they are as good as gone. Regardless, real fans stick with their team through thick and thin, through the good times and bad. If the players don't have any fans, then they don't have any motivation. I remember back in '02 when I heard about the Colon trade and seeing the outrage of fans everywhere, I trusted Mark Shapiro to get the job done, and he did just that. In reality, few GM's really have the kind of track record of making great trades like Shapiro does. Granted, in retrospect, the Alomar trade produced no one of note. While Shapiro is no longer the GM, there is no question that he has some say in personnel decisions. Those who stuck around following the '02 fire-sale were rewarded with one heck of a run in '07. I hate to sound cliche, but the night is darkest before the dawn. The fans who make it through the night might see one heck of a sunrise.