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.
When last I briefed you on the Indians, here is where I stood:
“So, it’s December and we are still without a closer, a healthy, power-hitting DH, 3 spots in the rotation are up for grabs and we don’t have a 3rd baseman. Needless to say, I’m a little concerned for next year.” So, have the holes been filled? Let’s take a peek.
Closer – Well, the Tribe did it. They went out in the free-agent market and got the second best closer available in Kerry Wood. (The top closer being Francisco Rodriguez who signed with the Mets for 3 years and $37m.) We got Wood for 2 years and $20m. He’s the first closer that I have felt good about going into a season since Jose Mesa.
Power-hitting DH – Only time will tell this one. Travis Hafner has not been the same hitter since he got hit in the face in 2007. New injuries last year limited him and threw a wrench into the lineup for most of the year. If Pronk is healthy and puts up his average numbers: 30HR, 100R, 100 RBI, things will be good at the corner of Carnegie & Ontario.
3rd Baseman – Once again, I feel good about the Mark DeRosa signing for 3B. He’s a solid guy that appears to be a great “team” guy. That allows Peralta to stay at short and Cabrera at 2B. Splitting time between Garko & Martinez at 1B. That is a solid defensive infield.
Rotation – Well, here, not so much. For all the good the Tribe did in the bullpen in the off season; Jensen Lewis, Rafael Betancourt, Rafael Perez, Joe Smith and Masa Kobayashi, they well asleep on the starting rotation. Carl Pavano, I will say it again slowly in case you thought you heard me wrong, Carl Pavano. This guy turned one good season with the Phillies into a 4-year, $40m deal with the Yankees. He then proceeded to make only 26 starts over the next 4 years(including just 9 in the past 2 years), to end up with a 9-8 record with the Yanks. If, he’s healthy, I see him as a #5 starter, at best. The other 2 spots (well, 3 WHEN Pavano gets hurt) will be fought over by: Reyes/Laffey/Sowers/Lewis/Huff/Jackson. If we can get some useful inning from Laffey/Sowers (they have done it before). Things may just be held together with spit and duct tape.
Bright spots – I see the outfield being this club’s strength for the year. Grady Sizemore is already an all-star, but I see this as the year he breaks outs, cuts down on the strikeouts and takes on MVP consideration. Flanked by Choo and Fransisco (that’s fun to say), the outfield should be solid defensively and consistent at the dish.
Catching will be solid with Kelly Shopach backing up V-Mart. Everyone young (Fransisco, Cabrera, Carmona, Garko) has one more year of experience in the big leagues and I am only worried about Choo’s sophomore slump potential.
Overall, I like this team’s prospects. Barring injuries in spring training, I believe the opening day batting order looks like this:
Only 14 more days until pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Baseball Fever, Catch it.
Reflecting back on 2008, I can honestly say: This year sucked. It’s always a good idea the look at the positives and all the good things that have happened to you and your family. That’s all well and good, but for the sake of argument I’m going to look back on what will go down in flames as the one of the crappiest years in my life. (How’s that for being professor positive?)
Screw you, Dow Jones and your average.
When you make a living in the investment business, it’s not good to have the worst year on record for every major stock average. Seeing the Dow drop from 14,164 to about 7500 makes for a bad year. Throw in a bond market that is for crap and there you go. I have spent most of the past three months dealing with this market, so, that’s all I have to say about that.
And Leo’s getting larger….
I started to get on a diet plan a couple of months back. I was jazzed about it and even wrote a blog or two. Then stress from the stock market crept into my waistline and the diet went by the wayside and McDonald’s came back into my life. Now I just have a bigger number to start from when I appear on Biggest loser next season.
Ahhhhh, my sports teams.
Indians - The Tribe was one win away from the World Series in 2007. Whoever won the American League was going to roll over the Rockies. The Indians managed to blow a 3-1 series lead in the ALCS and lose to Boston. C.C. Sabathia won the Cy Young award and things were looking good for 2008. Injuries, bad pitching and other excuses lead to a 81-81 season. We spent most of the season in 2nd to last place. Our bright spot was that Cliff Lee won the Cy Young this year. So, it’s December and we are still without a closer, a healthy, power-hitting DH, 3 spots in the rotation are up for grabs and we don’t have a 3rd baseman. Needless to say, I’m a little concerned for next year.
Cowboys - After expecting the Cowboys to run the table in the NFL this year, they sit at 8-5. Tony Romo was hurt, the team is still learning that NFL games are 4 quarters, not 3 and they still have the train wreck that is T.O. So, the Cowboys will be enjoying the playoffs from their couches this year.
Salukis – The football team had another good year, but was bounced from the playoffs in the first round. Our basketball team is average at best and missed the NCAA this past March after going for the previous 6 years.
So, I’m fat, work is tough and my sports teams stink. Seems like a thin reason to call it a bad year. I still have a beautiful, wonderful wife. My son brings a new smile to my face everyday. I have the love and support of my family. Most of the things that I am ready to flush are out of my control. And what that old serenity prayer say? “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference. So, c’mon down 2009. I’m ready for you.