For some reason, I liked Vern Fuller.

Don’t ask me why. For five seasons, from 1966 to 1970, he occasionally played second base for the Cleveland Indians. He had a career batting average of .232 in 785 at-bats.

He wasn’t my favorite player, but, when I think of the Tribe teams of that era, his name is always one of the first that comes to mind.

As I watched a little bit of the Indians’ latest loss on TV Thursday night, I found myself thinking: Vern Fuller would be a star on this team, or close to it.

With all due respect to Mr. Fuller, that’s sad.

Here’s what else I was thinking as I watched guys like Jordan Brown and Frank Hermann ply their trade in an Indians uniform:

1. Who are these guys? and

2. Why on earth am I watching this?

I’m not alone. Attendance at Progressive Field has plummeted. Ratings for Indians telecasts on SportsTime Ohio have experienced a similar decline.

Once the hottest ticket in town, the Indians have become irrelevant.

As Oscar Wilde once said, “The only thing worse in the world than being talked about is not being talked about.”

That’s our Tribe.

As I paused briefly to watch a few moments of Thursday’s telecast, Luis Valbuena came to bat. What he’s doing back in the majors, I don’t know, but he’s hitting .169 on the season.

Then six-year veteran Andy Marte and his now-predictable .204 batting average stepped up, followed by Lou Marson (.192).

I’m sorry, but when you’re fielding a lineup like that, you’re simply not competing.

Then I looked up their salaries. They’re each making about $400,000 this season. In fact, most of the guys on the team are.

I guess that explains it.

The Indians have become the Pittsburgh Pirates of the American League. They play in a beautiful stadium in the heart of the city. They have a loyal fan base. They have a minuscule payroll.

And they’re terrible. Just terrible.

It also appears that, before they get better, they’re going to get worse.

In recent weeks, they went through their annual exercise of gutting the roster. This time, Jhonny Peralta, Austin Kearns, Kerry Wood, and Jake Westbrook were sent packing. Good old Russell Branyan was shipped out before them.

Carlos Santana, their brightest young player, suffered a horrendous, season-ending knee injury this week.

In their place are youngsters like Brown, Valbuena, Hermann, and another $400,000 man, Hector Ambriz.


It’s hard to assess what kind of job Manny Acta is doing as manager. How can we, with the roster he’s been given?

Shin-Soo Choo is the closest thing the Indians have to a star. Santana has promise, and Sizemore is a solid pro, but both must now overcome injuries to return to form next year.

Otherwise, the jury’s out on virtually everyone—including the new ace of the pitching staff, Fausto Carmona, who sports a 44-45 career win-loss record.


What’s alarming is that this routine is becoming the norm in Cleveland.

Develop a few solid players, and sign some veterans. Mix them with young kids for half the season, then unload the guys that will bring some prospects. Play out the rest of the season with the youngsters, and do it all over again the next year.

Three years ago, the Indians won 96 games, the A.L. Central Division crown, and very nearly an A.L. pennant.

A year later, their win total plummeted to 81. Last year, that number dropped to 65.

While this year’s winning percentage is better than last year’s at the moment, one wonders how long that will last now that the lineup is littered with AAA-level talent.

Mark Shapiro’s tenure as general manager has been one of missed opportunities. Larry Dolan’s tenure as owner has been one of lowered expectations.

The problem is, when expectations get too low, people lose interest. That means the Indians don’t just need to figure out how to win games, they need to figure out how to win back the fans.

Goodness, where’s Vern Fuller when you need him?

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