Today—as I’m sure you know—is Thanksgiving, the only day of the year when all we have to do to rationalize completely pigging out at dinner is to spend a few minutes expressing gratitude for everything nice in our lives.
What better time, then, for Cleveland Indians fans to think about why we’re lucky to have our team? Yes, it’s rough to be a fan in Northeast Ohio—that’s why our blogs have names like “Waiting for Next Year” and “Cleveland Sports Torture“—but our teams couldn’t break our hearts if we didn’t give them our hearts to begin with.
Need some help coming up with reasons to be thankful for being an Indians fan? Here are 10 things to think about for when you sit down with your turkey.
10. Strong clubhouse chemistry. The effect of teamwork and camaraderie on a team’s success may be overblown, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. And the Indians have it, as evidenced by the well-publicized story of Tribe players passing the hat to get Jack Hannahan home in time for the birth of his son.
9. Comebacks. The Indians figure to be much better in 2012 just by nature of regression to the mean. Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Fausto Carmona all had down years in 2011—even if they don’t all play like their normal selves, they’re likely to show some modest improvement.
8. Grady’s return. It looked like his time with the Tribe was over, but the team announced yesterday that former face of the franchise Grady Sizemore will be back for 2012. He might not be the star he once was, but on a team-friendly, incentive-laden deal it’s well worth it just to invigorate the fanbase.
7. The skipper. The Tribe’s success this year at least had something to do with Manny Acta, whose strong leadership, sabermetric-friendly philosophy, and ability to work with young players make him one of the best managers in the game—even if he doesn’t have a Manager of the Year award to show it.
6. The youngsters. Most (though not all) of the organization’s major impact prospects are in the majors now, but that doesn’t mean they won’t improve going forward. This year’s biggest additions, Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis, look like they’ll be cornerstones of the Tribe’s lineup for years to come. Not to mention young stars like Asdrubal Cabrera and Jusin Masterson and already-solid regulars like Michael Brantley and Josh Tomlin.
5. Progressive Field. Most people put AT&T Park or Camden Yards at the tops of their best stadium lists, but Cleveland fans know that they get to watch their team in one of the nicest ballparks around. It doesn’t have much history or distinctive architecture, but it’s just a great place to catch a game.
4. The front office. Another part of the franchise that’s underrated by the rest of the league. You might not hear GM Chris Antonetti’s name spoken of in the same tones as Billy Beane or Theo Epstein, but this front office—which, by the way, features two great GMs (don’t forget that Mark Shapiro is still on board)—has been quite successful in spite of the team’s limited budget.
3. This season. For most teams, finishing 15 games out of the playoffs wouldn’t seem like much of an accomplishment. But when a team that most analysts predicted would finish in fourth place at best ended up as a serious contender for most of the season, it made for a great summer.
2. The future. This won’t just be a one-season fluke. All of this year’s main contributors will be back for 2012, and with a strong core of young impact players, there could be a mini-Cleveland dynasty in the making.
1. Having a baseball team. I know it sounds trite, but it really is true. No matter how depressing it is to be an Indians fan, or no matter how much sleep we’ve lost over the Tribe’s woes, we’re lucky to even have a team that can break our hearts.
Have a great Thanksgiving from all of us here at Wahoo’s on First!