One of those games.
I don't really like to talk about what happens on the major-league level other than strategy and long-term effects, because (a) you can very easily get recaps from the Intenet, and (b) concentrating on one game only as a measure of a team seems a bit short-sighted to me. I'm a big picture guy; I like to step back and see the team for what it has accomplished over the long-haul, and if certain players are going to successful because they have proven themselves over a sufficient stretch of games. In other words, I'm a big proponent of importance of sample size.
However, I have to make an exception for last night's 11-9 loss to the White Sox. At least from my point of view, this game proved that the Indians are back. What does "back" mean? Well, it can mean that the Indians should no longer be thrown in with the also-rans; they now matter in baseball's conscious. Does this mean that the rebuilding is now over? No way; in virtually any other division, talk of making the playoffs would have migrated into the realm of the fanatically optimistic. As of today, the Indians are 4 games back of the Twins and 3 games back of the White Sox. That's an impressive feat considering how they started the season. That the Indians are a mediocre team in late June despite having the worst bullpen in captivity is a nice accomplishment.
Let me get back to why last night's loss was important. To me, it showed that even though they threw Scott Elarton, a pitcher that may be looking for work in Indianapolis or Omaha soon, against one of the better pitchers in the American League, even though they were down 8 runs after three innings, they were capable of overcoming those mistakes to make the game interesting. Do I expect this to happen every time? No. But the fact that it is now possible for them to do this, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the game, gave me a real shot in the arm as an Indians fan.
Now I'm going to step back a little bit. What does Mark Shapiro do if the Indians are a .500 team at the All-Star Break and 4-5 games back of first place? More specifically, how do the Indians balance their short-term and long-term goals in a year when even management assumed that the Indians weren't going to be a playoff team? My short answer is this: don't even think about trading your star prospects, but go for marginal upgrades wherever you can get them. Try to get Kris Benson for simply the price of his contract and a marginal prospect. See if the Mariners want to dump John Olerud. Go after the Jason Grimsleys of the world, but don't give up a Denny Batista in order to get him. In other words, be aggressive, but be smart. The plan is working right now; don't stray from it just yet.