In a hastily called press conference, Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro spoke out against what he called "an overly beneficent computative smear campaign" that has left fans believing the Indians might reach a level of vague adequacy in the 2010 season. "I have unequivocally stated that I believe this is a club that's rebuilding. For those who do not understand my coded language, I am implying that this is a team that will not win many games at all."
Shapiro said that he had tried to keep mum after seeing the popular Baseball Prospectus "PECOTA" projections that predicted the Indians would finish at 76-86, a record the GM called "unrealistically good but still bad enough that I wasn't going to make a scene." However, when another set of mathematical analyses were released this week, these called the "CHONE" projections, and the Indians checked in at 81-81, good for second in the division, the two-time MLB Executive of the Year award winner felt like he had to speak out.
"You know, 5, 6, 7 years ago, we didn't pay much attention to these projections because the majority of our fans didn't know what they were or what they meant. While it's still true that most fans don't know what they mean, they do hear about them and repeat them around the office. The end result for us is an echo chamber of rising expectations: just weeks ago, we had successfully made the argument that we would finish behind the Royals. Then, yesterday, I heard a caller on WTAM talking about how the Indians had a shot at .500 according to a 'transgression analysis.' I knew I had to speak out."
In remaking his argument for 2010 as an absolute sinkhole of performance, Shapiro reiterated how poor he anticipated the entire pitching staff being but also made sure to highlight the offense and the team's fielding as probable contra assets.
"Yeah, I looked at the nuts and bolts of the CHONE projections, the individual players. Jason Grilli is being projected as a net positive to our club, a guy with an ERA under 4. I signed Grilli as part of my Expectation Realignment Initiation. This was a guy who I thought would send a message to our fans: pack it in, wait till next year. And instead, he's part of some accidental Frankenstein that's supposed to allow our club to win 75 or 80 games? Please. He's got Jhonny Peralta playing defense behind him-we're planning on that! On purpose!"
"At the same time, I don't want to take away from some of the low expectations we have for our offense: I've seen projections that put Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner's total at bats up near a thousand. How is that possible? Those guys are a crystal chandelier fashioned out of champagne glasses hanging over a crevasse of rocks and lava somewhere in an Eastern Bloc state on the moon!"
At the same time, the Indians' top executive refused to give much credit to the younger players he had acquired throughout the last two seasons, stating "they ain't Cliff Lee" and "many of them don't even know some of the rules."
More than anything, Shapiro seemed to want fans to realize what they were getting into if they chose to follow the team over the next 8 months. "Computers are great and all. I used to use one all the time-Hank Peters taught me how. Sometimes, though, when you've been around the game as long as I have, you realize you've got to trust your eyes and your guts. My eyes and guts tell me that this is the worst team I've ever seen."
In assessing his division rivals, Shapiro refused to go into details besides saying that all the other clubs have "tons of good players" while the Indians have "maybe one or two." When pressed for a prediction for this upcoming season, Shapiro would not give a hard guess as to how many games his team could win or lose. "I'm not going to do that-I'm not going to put our guys under that kind of pressure. My prediction is like the Joads in Grapes of Wrath or something. When Ludlow gets stuck in the hold with the baby T-Rex in The Lost World. Misery."