Here we sit, on September 1, 2011 and the Cleveland Indians are in 2nd place, 5.5 games back. No one, and I mean no one, predicted this. At the beginning of the year, every sportswriter, blogger, and fan of baseball (including me) had my beloved Tribe finishing 4th in the AL Central. All of the so-called experts had the Indians winning 70 games, 75 tops. The Indians record right now is 68-65. For them to be 3 games over .500 with a month left to go in the season is remarkable. The fact that they would still be hanging in this race with all the injuries and the lack of experience on this team is a testament to what Manny Acta can do as a manager. (I have to give kudos to the White Sox for hanging in there too. It’s got to be tough having Dunn & Rios suck 8 at-bats every night from your lineup and still be in contention.)
Good times, good times
This season has been fun for me. Because we are winning? Yes, that’s part of it, but seeing this team gel and put together a beginning of the season like they did (remember the 30-15 start?) It’s been fun to see, for all practical purposes a AAA ball club, stay in first for most of the season. It reminds me of 1994 when the Indians had guys like; Thome, Belle, Alomar, Lofton, Ramirez, Nagy, Baerga. While we have the advantage of time and can see how those young players went on to great things, back then they were a young, inexperienced team that had not proven a thing. Only Sandy Alomar’s Rookie of the Year trophy hung in the glass case. Is this team going to go on the run the ’90′s Indians did? I don’t know. I’m not looking for a dynasty, I’m looking for a team that I enjoy watching. I enjoy watching this team.
Anyone who has gotten within earshot of me for the past several years has heard me complain about Eric Wedge’s management of the pitching staff. Wedge is one of those managers that when the 6th inning rolls around and his starter gives up a leadoff walk, then a single, then hits a batter, he sends the pitching coach to talk to him. Next batter up hits a bases-clearing double, then Wedgie would go get him. That was my existence from 2003 – 09. Besides the run in 2007, it was a long 7 years. THAT, my friends, is not fun.
Don’t you want to win every year?
I got into a conversation with an old schoolmate who is a Yankee’s fan. I like to jab at his Yankee supporting comments and he gives it right back. It’s fun. In the middle of one of our exchanges he asked, “Wouldn’t u like for the Indians to spend more money and be a true contender each year or u happy with them spending bottom money and being a contender for a few weeks?” Good question. My answer: “Would I like a contending team, yea, but it’s been a hell of a lot more fun this year with them coming together than expecting it every year.”
From 1995 – 2001, I was right there along with him. I expected to be in the world series every year. We went to 2 and won none. I guess I like to live my sports life somewhere between a dynasty & doormats. I want to know that my teams have a chance to win it all.
Our Fate is in our own hands
Will we make the playoffs? I hope so. Will I stay awake and watch (via my iPad) a 16-inning game against the A’s on August 31st? Yes. Because for me, its about being a fan and rooting, rally cap and all for my team to pull out the win. We have 29 games left. 14 are against the Tigers and White Sox. So, if we are going to win the AL Central, we are not going to be scoreboard watching. We win big in those 14 games, we make the playoffs. We don’t and we rest up for next year.
While cleaning out some old papers this morning, I found a copy of this article by Rick Reilly. Since everyone is busy today putting their new year’s resolutions into place, I thought this article would put it all in perspective.
Funny You Should Ask
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Posted: Tuesday April 13, 1999 10:13 AM
So we were lying on our backs on the grass in the park next to our hamburger wrappers, my 14-year-old son and I, watching the clouds loiter overhead, when he asked me, “Dad, why are we here?”
And this is what I said.
“I’ve thought a lot about it, son, and I don’t think it’s all that complicated. I think maybe we’re here just to teach a kid how to bunt, turn two and eat sunflower seeds without using his hands.
“We’re here to pound the steering wheel and scream as we listen to the game on the radio, 20 minutes after we pulled into the garage. We’re here to look all over, give up and then find the ball in the hole.
“We’re here to watch, at least once, as the pocket collapses around John Elway, and it’s fourth-and-never. Or as the count goes to 3 and 1 on Mark McGwire with bases loaded, and the pitcher begins wishing he’d gone on to med school. Or as a little hole you couldn’t get a skateboard through suddenly opens in front of Jeff Gordon with a lap to go.
“We’re here to wear our favorite sweat-soaked Boston Red Sox cap, torn Slippery Rock sweatshirt and the Converses we lettered in, on a Saturday morning with nowhere we have to go and no one special we have to be.
“We’re here to rake on a jack-high nothin’ hand and have nobody know it but us. Or get in at least one really good brawl, get a nice shiner and end up throwing an arm around the guy who gave it to us.
“We’re here to shoot a six-point elk and finally get the f-stop right, or to tie the perfect fly, make the perfect cast, catch absolutely nothing and still call it a perfect morning.
“We’re here to nail a yield sign with an apple core from half a block away. We’re here to make our dog bite on the same lame fake throw for the gazillionth time. We’re here to win the stuffed bear or go broke trying.
“I don’t think the meaning of life is gnashing our bicuspids over what comes after death but tasting all the tiny moments that come before it. We’re here to be the coach when Wendell, the one whose glasses always fog up, finally makes the only perfect backdoor pass all season. We’re here to be there when our kid has three goals and an assist. And especially when he doesn’t.
“We’re here to see the Great One setting up behind the net, tying some poor goaltender’s neck into a Windsor knot. We’re here to watch the Rocket peer in for the sign, two out, bases loaded, bottom of the career. We’re here to witness Tiger’s lining up the 22-foot double breaker to win and not need his autograph afterward to prove it.
“We’re here to be able to do a one-and-a-half for our grandkids. Or to stand at the top of our favorite double-black on a double-blue morning and overhear those five wonderful words: ‘Highway’s closed. Too much snow.’ We’re here to get the Frisbee to do things that would have caused medieval clergymen to burn us at the stake.
“We’re here to sprint the last 100 yards and soak our shirts and be so tired we have to sit down to pee.
“I don’t think we’re here to make SportsCenter. The really good stuff never does. Like leaving Wrigley at 4:15 on a perfect summer afternoon and walking straight into Murphy’s with half of section 503. Or finding ourselves with a free afternoon, a little red 327 fuel-injected 1962 Corvette convertible and an unopened map of Vermont’s backroads.
“We’re here to get the triple-Dagwood sandwich made, the perfectly frosted malted-beverage mug filled and the football kicked off at the very second your sister begins tying up the phone until Tuesday.
“None of us are going to find ourselves on our deathbeds saying, ‘Dang, I wish I’d spent more time on the Hibbings account.’ We’re going to say, ‘That scar? I got that scar stealing a home run from Consolidated Plumbers!’
“See, grown-ups spend so much time doggedly slaving toward the better car, the perfect house, the big day that will finally make them happy when happy just walked by wearing a bicycle helmet two sizes too big for him. We’re not here to find a way to heaven. The way is heaven. Does that answer your question, son?”
And he said, “Not really, Dad.”
And I said, “No?”
And he said, “No, what I meant is, why are we here when Mom said to pick her up 40 minutes ago?
Issue date: April 12, 1999
Let me use every possible baseball quote here: “It’s a long season”, “We have to take them one game at a time”, “We got roughed up today, but we will get back out there tomorrow”, etc, etc, etc. The Tribe dropped their season opener in Texas 9 – 1. Cliff Lee came in with a Cy Young award and left the game with a 12.60 era. He has stuggled all spring, but then came into this game and sat the first 3 batters down like spring training didn’t even happen. Then the implosion, 4 runs in the secon and a three-run home run in the 5th.
I gave my outlook for this year on January 29th. Two months have passed and I thought I better look and see what look different now that the season has started.
Closer - Well the game was a blow-out, so I will have to get back to you on this.
Power-Hitting DH - Well, Travis did get his at bats this spring so I look for him to put up 30 & 100.
3B - Still like Mark DeRosa, looking forward to having him this year.
Rotation - I thought I would not have to worry about 1-2 in the rotation, but this spring Lee was bad and Carmona looked more like the ace. Pavano started out bad and got a lot better as the pre-season went on. Still worried about the 4 & 5 spots.
Opening Day line up - OK, how close did I get it?
1. Sizemore 1. Sizemore
2. DeRosa 2. DeRosa
3. Hafner 3. Martinez
4. Martinez 4. Hafner
5. Peralta 5. Peralta
6. Garko 6. Choo
7. Fransisco 7. Shoppach
8. Choo 8. Fransisco
9. Cabrera 9. Cabrera
OK, so only 4 out of 9 spots, but 8 out of 9 players. They sat Garko against Millwood, a lefty.
I’m just happy that baseball is back. That means that summer is coming and the temperature is on it’s way back up. I still think the Tribe has the chops to win the AL Central. (and Sickles, the White Sox suck).
I read a feature article on Manny Ramirez a couple of weeks ago and one quote caught me that gave me a hugh batch of respect for Mr. Manny-being-Manny. “My biggest dream is not to hit 500 home runs or 600, or 700, my dream is for God to give me enough health to watch my kids grow up, have a beer with them, watch them graduate. That’s my Hall of Fame.”
Great quote Manny, glad you did learn something from your days with the Tribe.