Hey, look! A silver lining!

A couple weeks ago, the Indians were practically unstoppable. Now, they’re practically unwatchable. Witnessing them blow one golden opportunity after another has been painful, aggravating and downright depressing. But, Tribe fans, there is good news, and when Spring Training ’06 rolls around next year, it’ll be great news.

This team is set up to compete for the long haul.

Look, nobody expected them to win 93 games this year, let alone 94. If you did, you may have known something not even Eric Wedge and Mark Shapiro knew. The fact that they’re even in this race is astounding considering their brutal start to the season and their 94-loss campaign just two years ago. They were so hot for so long, and while it was easy to envision them riding that hot streak through the playoffs and into the World Series, it’s not all that surprising that it’s come to an end. Unfortunately, their timing sucks, but we’re used to that. We are, after all, Cleveland fans.

So let’s say we’re treated to a minor miracle, with the Indians winning Sunday, the Yankees knocking off the Red Sox and then the Tribe taking out the Sox in a one-game playoff. Awesome. Playoff baseball again, baby!

But if that doesn’t happen, there’s so much to look forward to with this team. The rotation, headed by C.C. and Lee, is set, with several young arms down on the farm ready to make the jump. The lineup will be stacked for the next several years, with Hafner, Grady, Victor and Peralta leading the way and, again, a ton of minor-league talent on the brink. And sitting atop the entire franchise is one of the best GMs in the game, a guy who hasn’t gotten nearly the credit he deserves for rebuilding this team so quickly and so thoroughly.

They’ll have work to do this offseason, of course, whether they make the playoffs or not. Kevin Millwood needs to be retained — he’s a workhorse and his invaluable professionalism has rubbed off on the entire rotation. Shapiro also must go out and find a professional hitter, someone who will hit .320, can handle the bat and can hit for some power, a guy who can be this team’s version of Carlos Baerga. The Indians don’t need anymore sluggers — it needs one or two guys who can move runners over, come up with some big hits and keep the lineup afloat when all the boppers are swinging and missing. Plug him into the #3 hole, move Peralta down and suddenly, this lineup is even more dangerous. Of course, for all of that to happen, Dolan needs to be willing to open up the wallet a bit this off season, but with the success the Indians enjoyed this year, I don’t expect that to be much of a problem.

I hate looking toward next year with this year still up in the air, but there’s nothing wrong with having a long-term outlook. That’s exactly the approach Mark Shapiro took when he took over an aging Indians team just a few years ago, and look what he’s accomplished. With two or three more calculated moves this winter, we may be talking about a World Series run this time next year.

You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates.