Indians Take Precipitous Step





In 2007, the Cleveland Indians came one game away from winning their first pennant in a decade. They lost to the Red Sox in seven games in the American League Championship Series, but they appeared to be positioned to continue winning and contending for the playofs.

They had a payroll just over $60 million, allowing them to potentially keep impending free-agent lefty C.C. Sabathia, and had low-cost regulars such as Victor Martinez, Franklin Gutierrez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Grady Sizemore and Ryan Garko. Martinez and Sizemore, who appeared on the cover of Sports Illustraed in May '07, looked like franchise building blocks, and Cliff Lee developed into that kind of pitcher the next season. The organization made a long-term investment in DH Travis Hafner at the all-star break in 2007, signing him to a four-year, $57 million contract that locked him in with the Indians through 2012.

The window quickly slammed shut on the Tribe, however, when they got off to a 37-45 start in 2008 and traded Sabathia at midseason. Even as Lee turned in a Cy Young Award season, the Indians began rebuilding in earnest.

Since that ALCS loss, the Indians have traded nine members of their 25-man playoff roster—as well as Lee, who didn't even earn a spot on the roster and was sent back to the minors for a time that year. And among the players they've kept, Hafner and Sizemore have turned out to be solid pros but not stars, battling inconsistent performance and injuries in the last three seasons.

While the '07 Indians were a mix of homegrown building blocks (Sabathia, Martinez, Jhonny Peralta and Fausto Carmona) and trade pickups (Lee, Gutierrez, Sizemore, Jake Westbrook), the organization hasn't had the same kind of success of late, and the farm system hasn't provided replacements for the premium talent traded away. The best prospect found in trades has been catcher Carlos Santana, who was picked up for third baseman Casey Blake.

So we decided to take a look at how the 2007 Indians devolved into the 2010 Tribe, from a team that won 96 games and attracted 2.28 million fans to one that won 69 while drawing just 1.39 million—both with $61 million payrolls.

The first graphic in the slideshow shows how the wins and fans have dropped off precipitously since the 2007 season, and the following graphic shows why. You'll see the 2007 roster (the playoff roster plus Lee) on the left and the 2010 roster (the 26 players who were used most frequently and were still in the organization at season's end) on the right.

In between the two rosters, you'll see how players from the 2007 team translated into players on the 2010 team—either directly or indirectly—along with where the players who are not on both rosters either went or came from.

Click here to view a slideshow.