You know, if you took the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins and jammed them together, you’d have a pretty good baseball team. A starting five of Justin Masterson, Scott Diamond, Ubaldo Jimenez, Sam Deduno and I don’t know, Zach McAllister? Not that bad, especially with a lineup like this:
- Shin-Soo Choo – RF
- Asdrubal Cabrera – SS
- Joe Mauer C/1B
- Josh Willingham – LF
- Carlos Santana – C/1B
- Either Travis Hafner or Justin Morneau – DH
- Michael Brantley or Ben Revere or Denard Span – CF
- Jason Kipnis – 2B
- Someone, I’d prefer Jack Hannahan because he’s awesome – 3B
That’s a pretty nasty lineup. You’d have to think that 11-game losing streak would have been halted sooner if only because eventually someone would hit, even if the pitching caved in. That’s a contender right there though. We could call them the Clevesota Twindians. It flows so beautifully. This is what occupies the idle Indian writer’s mind.
As it is, they are in fact two separate teams and sit at fourth and fifth in the standings. Only one of them expected this, but now we’re in “play out the string and ruin somebody’s October” mode so we’re sure to see some strange names on the field. Guys like Pedro Florimon, a light-hitting shortstop (.675 OPS in the minors) with a good glove. Or Matt Carson, a corner outfielder with middling power (.448 minors slugging percentage). It’s guys like this we’ll see late in the game, and chances are they’ll get some kind of big hit because nobody has a book on them.
As always I have to comment on Joe Mauer, because he’s just dazzling. He’s hitting .317 with an .856 OPS and even if the power numbers aren’t there like in his MVP season, what does he have left to prove? He can knock one if he has to. People act like he’s fallen off but he’s the same guy he’s always been and he’ll probably win another batting title at some point in his career. With that swing it’s impossible not to. Eventually he’ll win a title, hopefully in a lost year for the Tribe so there’s minimal heartbreak.
Along with Mauer is that constant reminder of the Indians front office’s failures, Josh Willingham. A right-handed corner outfielder with 33 homers and a .899 OPS just slipped through the Tribe’s fingers. What more can you say? It’s exactly what the Indians don’t have. As Morneau has faded Willingham has ascended and he’s a premier slugger in the league. Plus he’s in Minnesota for another two years. He has more homers than any two Indians combined, and only Miguel Cabrera in Detroit and Adam Dunn have more homers in the division. Nobody will be happy to see him while he’s in the Central.
With Denard Span and Ben Revere, this team can move on the basepaths, so at least it won’t be a plod-fest. They have 46 steals between the two of them and the Twins are third in the league in steals with 110. Manager Rod Gardenhire has been pulling every lever, but that can’t stop their bottoming out. It’s odd because there’s still talent on this team, it just hasn’t coalesced.
Meanwhile, the Tribe’s offense has woken up after an August of slumber. We all know it’s easy to lay around on those sweaty late summer days, but come on guys, you get to play a game for money. Carlos Santana has an .871 OPS over the last 11 games including a .409 on-base percentage and though Choo isn’t hitting his on-base work has been sterling at .396 the last two weeks. It’s not a lot, but it’s something. We saw the absolute worst this team could be in August, it’s about time they turned it around. Luckily the hurlers they’ll be facing aren’t quite a pack of firebreathing rottweilers. Which would be terrifying.