Are the Indians really this good? Yes.
Most people talk about the Indians’ youth, their lack of a prime-time pitcher or their supposedly inconsistent bats.
They talk about the fact the Indians were expected to finish last, or next-to-last, in the AL Central. They talk about Minnesota and Chicago and Detroit, and wonder when those teams will come alive.
And maybe they will. After all, we all know things won’t always be this good for the Tribe — winners of 13 in a row at home and owners of the American League’s best record at 19-8.
But maybe, just maybe, the Indians have the chemistry, the confidence and yes, the magic, to make this work for an entire summer.
And why not?
It has happened before, after all. Maybe not in Cleveland, but in other places in other seasons. Colorado did it recently. So did Detroit and Tampa Bay. And who would have picked San Francisco to win last year’s World Series?
Granted, the Indians don’t have the star power of even those predecessors in baseball miracles. Their pitching staff really is unproven. And while their lineup has been hot, according to most experts, it remains void of a reliable power hitter.
No doubt, all of this could crumble. That’s just life in the major leagues, where 27 out of 162 games doesn‘t usually mean much.
Then again … at least the Indians are giving us reason for debate. At least they are making the lives of Cleveland sports fans interesting again.
At least Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner look like the Sizemore and Hafner of old, and 31-year old third baseman Jack Hannahan looks like the Hannahan of new.
And at least this is considerably better than anyone projected. Especially when you consider the first four innings of the Indians’ season ended in a 14-0 deficit. But since that time, the Tribe has maybe played three bad games. Even when they have lost, they’ve looked OK.
That alone makes you think maybe this team is for real.
Maybe it’s manager Manny Acta’s turn for good fortune, particularly after years of coaching undermanned teams in Washington and Cleveland. Maybe Hafner is due for a year that reminds us why an entire section of seats was once named in his honor (“Pronkville”).
Maybe starters Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin are destined for breakout seasons, pitching through occasional mistakes and taking advantage of what has been an outstanding defense.
Or what about men like Carlos Santana, Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera and Orlando Cabrera? Or even Michael Brantley, Matt LaPorta and Shelley Duncan? All have performed admirably, exceeding expectations and coming through with clutch hits and stellar plays in the field.
Then there’s the relief pitchers, the assumed strength of the team that has lived up to its status behind Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith, Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp and especially, closer Chris Perez.
Making their name
What’s so interesting about all this is so many of these guys were unknowns prior to the season. Not just by the national folks, but by Clevelanders as well.
As one fan noted when Pestano trotted to the mound in the Indians’ weekend sweep of Detroit, “I never heard of this guy before last week, but I sure do like him.”
That’s pretty much the way Tribe supporters now feel about the entire team.
Granted, the national media has yet to jump on the bandwagon — as they are often hesitant to do if the bandwagon isn’t being driven out of major markets such as New York, Chicago or Los Angeles.
Instead, they keep focusing on reasons why the Indians’ hot start can’t last. Heck, some media members aren’t really even giving reasons.
“They have nice young players,” MLB network analyst Al Leiter said on Dan Patrick’s TV show Monday. “Who knows if Grady Sizemore is going to continue? I like Perez the closer. Am I buying in for the whole year? No.”
And that is indeed the easy way out — and perhaps the way that makes most sense.
It’s early, the Indians were supposed to be lousy, and they have yet to experience any real adversity. There is no doubting any of that.
But this is also baseball. And these types of unexpected things happen all the time.
So are these Indians for real?
Today, the answer is a resounding yes, and that’s all that should matter to Tribe fans. So go ahead and believe. Because no matter what anyone says, this doesn’t have to be limited to just April.
It really can last all year long. Or at least until some opponent steps up and actually proves otherwise.