Indians' gaudy record is no illusion
CLEVELAND — The Boston Red Sox can only wish they were this good of a story.
Same goes for the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers, or any other team from the nation’s largest markets.
The national media probably wishes a larger market was doing this, too.
But truth is, there’s no better story in baseball right now than the Indians. Not even close.
OK, go ahead and argue. Go ahead and look at the roster and think, “No way does this team sustain this for an entire season.”
And maybe not. As is the case every year, the team that starts hot doesn’t always finish that way.
But so what?
All we have is now. And all the Indians are doing is finding ways to win.
Defending their turf
Grady Sizemore on the disabled list? Hey, no big deal. Michael Brantley can move to center field and get the rallies started at the top of the lineup.
Travis Hafner out for a month? Hey, not a problem. Travis Buck can blast home the winning runs – as he did in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Cincinnati.
That‘s right, the Indians swept the Reds, completing the series with a resounding 12-4 hammer job Sunday. It's similar to what they did to the Red Sox in a home series earlier this season.
Actually, it's similar to what the Indians have done to everyone at home not named the Chicago White Sox or Tampa Bay Rays.
OK, how about this: Since starting the season 0-2 at Progressive Field, the Indians have gone 18-2 on their own turf.
It’s true, as Chicago and Tampa Bay are the only visiting teams to defeat the Indians this year.
Imagine if this story were coming out of New York. Imagine if a New York team sprinted to a 29-15 start with a roster that earns about one-fourth of what the Yankees’ roster earns today.
Then imagine how much that team would be dominating the national headlines. Imagine how nauseated we’d feel while being forced to watch that team on highlight reel after highlight reel. And imagine how often that team’s nickname would be preceded by words such as “amazing” or “magical.”
Instead, the only people who really seem to care about or believe in the Indians are right here in Cleveland – or longtime followers scattered throughout the country.
Of course, all of that’s OK. Cleveland and the Indians are used to the lack of attention, and even kind of appreciate it. Both the city and the organization know if they are going to do something special, they’re going to do it as underdogs.
All about team
They say baseball isn’t a team sport – and in the truest sense, it’s not.
But anyone who thinks that way hasn’t been inside the Indians’ clubhouse. The doubters don’t realize there is something to be said for believing in the guy next to you in the field or the batter behind you in the lineup.
They didn’t believe manager Manny Acta and his staff, who predicted before the season that the Indians would be better than people thought.
The Red Sox certainly know it. They come to Cleveland on Monday for a three-game series as one of the better teams in baseball, a team that’s been on a mean streak itself since a horrid start. That included an early-season sweep in Cleveland.
But the Indians know it, too – and perhaps better than anyone.
It’s obvious they believe they’re never out of it and that someone, somehow always will come through.
The Indians certainly have had some clunkers, but you can count those on one hand. Most of their losses have come down to the final out. Even more of their wins have come down to the final at-bat.
They are living dangerously, and winning.
That takes more than individuals. That takes a collective unit coming together and helping one another out at the end.
It takes surprising pitching – in the case of the Indians, guys like Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin having career seasons.
It takes smart and strong defense – in the case of the Indians, guys like former Golden Glove winner Orlando Cabrera and longtime journeyman Jack Hannahan performing their best.
And it takes hitters who know where to place the ball when it means the most – in the case of the Indians, just about everyone who has set foot in the batter’s box.
Add it all up, and it’s not difficult to understand how and why the Tribe appears to be running away with the AL Central. Heck, they even could hit a drought and still not feel all that threatened by Detroit, Kansas City, Minnesota or Chicago.
Of course, it’s hard to imagine that happening. It’s hard to comprehend the Indians falling completely apart.
They’ve had every reason to, but haven’t. They just battle, battle and battle some more, and keep on believing.
They might be about the only ones who feel that way, the only ones who really take themselves seriously.
But if this continues, pretty soon, the rest of the nation will have no choice but to follow along.
Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO