Hall of Famer Eddie Murray is out of work, Aaron Boone soon could be and still, there are no answers.
"I feel better," Boone says after rapping five hits over the final two games of a series against the Chicago White Sox. "But yeah, it's been a long two months for me."
|Aaron Boone missed the 2004 season after two surgeries on his right knee. (Getty Images)|
"I've got a tremendous amount of respect for him, and for what he's done in his career," Wedge says evenly. "He's got more of a track record than anybody we have. He brings a lot more to the table than just what he does offensively. There are a number of reasons why he has value to us."
Mostly, though, what appeared to be a wise move last June, when the Indians signed a rehabilitating Boone for 2005 with a club option for 2006, so far has backfired badly. If Boone doesn't start contributing something offensively, the Indians eventually are going to have to do, well, something. Nobody here is on scholarship, and the boos grow louder and louder at home in Jacobs Field.
"It's been that way pretty much the entire year," reliever Scott Sauerbeck says. "You want him to do well and then flip them off or something, like, 'Hey, take that, people.'
"I don't want to say anything bad about the fans, but if they knew him and if they knew how much work he puts in, I think they'd be a little more forgiving."
Aaron Boone is one of the game's true good guys, but nice doesn't matter when you're in the box shaking away rust and breaking in a surgically repaired right knee. The game is even less forgiving than the fans, and if you forget that, even for an instant, then you are quickly reminded by an April in which you hit .123, a May in which you bat .188 or by a random 0-for-17 streak.
All of which has happened this year to Boone, who missed the entire 2004 season after undergoing a pair of surgeries on his right knee, having torn it up in a pickup basketball game the winter after his game-winning home run against Boston in the deciding game of the 2003 AL Championship Series.
"As frustrating as it's been, what I've been hanging onto is that I know I'm healthy and I know it's in there," Boone says. "I've made some steps."
Making things all the more frustrating is the fact that Boone's struggles have been a mirror image of the team's overall struggles at the plate. A grotesquely distorted fun-house mirror image, but a mirror image nonetheless.
The ugly at-bats and thrown-away chances culminated in the firing last Saturday of Murray, the aloof Hall of Famer who could not coax more hits out of the most disappointing lineup in the AL. While the Indians have been reluctant to provide details as to why Murray had to go, club sources indicate that his poor communication skills finally became an issue. Murray is described as having been reluctant to approach the young hitters, instead sitting back and waiting for them to come to him. Given the Indians' ongoing struggles, that was unacceptable.
So they promoted Derek Shelton, who was in his third season as the Indians' organizational hitting coordinator.