For Indians, 2010 was stepping stone to future

For Indians, 2010 was stepping stone to future

CLEVELAND -- The road that led the Indians through 2010 was straight uphill.

After two years of trades, injuries and ineffectiveness decimated what had been one of the American League's top teams in 2007, the Tribe entered 2010 with only the most modest of goals.

Gone were the dreams of contention that had slowly eroded in 2008 and '09. Gone, too, was Eric Wedge, who had been in the dugout's lead seat for seven seasons. Gone also were the likes of Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez and CC Sabathia, all former core players who had been shipped elsewhere, with their free-agent clocks ticking.

What remained was one of the youngest rosters in the Majors, one that only grew younger as 2010 wore on. The Indians had a new manager in the dugout at season's beginning and a new GM in place at season's end. In between, they auditioned reams of rookies, partially by design and partially as the result of some decimating injuries. October was spent prepping Progressive Field for Snow Days, not playoff games, but that was the expected result all along.

The 2010 campaign was a season geared toward to the emergence and maturation of the 27-and-under crowd, but the Indians hope that if a new core comes together, they will return to the level last reached in '07.

Year in Review
Looking back at 2010
MLB Year in Review
Game prospering
Final standings
Statistical leaders

Changing of the guard
After nearly a decade of stability up top, the Indians shook things up in 2010. Manny Acta began his first season as the club's manager, taking over a young roster and offering encouragement and enthusiasm in a difficult rebuilding situation. And that rebuild was placed in the hands of Chris Antonetti, who, over the course of the year, assumed more and more of the responsibilities once reserved for Mark Shapiro. At season's end, Shapiro became team president, and Antonetti, Shapiro's longtime assistant, became GM.

Big year for Choo
Choo had already established himself as one of the game's top all-around talents, but he took his game to another level in 2010, making strides on the defensive end and leading the league in outfield assists while contributing his second consecutive season of 20 homers and 20 steals, along with a .300 average and .401 on-base percentage. The Choo story continued into the offseason, when he was successful in his bid to win a gold medal for -- and a military exemption from -- his native South Korea during the Asian Games. And it will continue into 2011, as the Indians try to work out a contract extension with the man known as Big League Choo.

Developing a new core
From top to bottom in the organization, the Indians used 2010 to build a base for a better future. That included an aggressive approach in the First-Year Player Draft, in which the Indians invested $9.38 million to sign 27 selected players, including left-hander Drew Pomeranz, who, at No. 5 overall, was the Tribe's highest selection since Paul Shuey in 1992. On the Major League side, no young player made greater strides than Chris Perez, who successfully took over the closing duties from Kerry Wood. The Indians also received a comeback campaign from Fausto Carmona, saw improvement from Justin Masterson and Carlos Carrasco, strong debuts from Jeanmar Gomez and Josh Tomlin and a decent rookie year from Mitch Talbot. On the negative side, Matt LaPorta presented more questions than answers, and David Huff took a step back.

Injured knees sideline stars
This was supposed to be the year that Grady Sizemore recovered from 2009 elbow and abdominal surgeries to reemerge as one of the game's best players. Instead, it was a season that led to more question marks about Sizemore's career, as a knee injury suffered in Spring Training worsened, leading to season-ending microfracture surgery in June. And though top prospect Carlos Santana reached the bigs in June and helped ease the absence of Sizemore and inspire the fan base, he, too, went down with a knee injury on a horrific collision at home plate in August, which led to a surgical procedure of his own. Both hope to enter the 2011 season healthy.

Indians lose an icon
Feller, who turned 92 in November, began the year as he always did, attending Spring Training games and telling "rainy day stories" to anybody lucky enough to listen. He also celebrated the 70th anniversary of his one-of-a-kind Opening Day no-hitter in Chicago in 1940. But Feller, a Hall of Famer, World War II survivor and inimitable and indefatigable presence at Tribe home games, was diagnosed with leukemia in August and encountered a run of poor health. Feller died on Dec. 15, 2010, in Cleveland.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.