Considering how far we’ve come with advanced analysis and statistical forecasting in baseball, it has to be the consensus that it’s the unpredictability that draws us to the game. Whether it’s the A’s and Orioles going to the playoffs or the Red Sox and Braves collapsing on a historical level, or even little things like a seeing eye single or a game winning blast from an unlikely bench player (Dan Johnson!), these are the moments we actually watch the game for. We search for rationality and reason behind it all, a way to tell what’s going to happen, but celebrate that which we cannot foresee.
To celebrate that which cannot be foretold, I’ve put together this definitely non-definitive list of irrational reasons why the Indians are going to win the pennant this year. I picked the pennant rather than just reaching the playoffs or winning the World Series because it’s ambiguous yet descriptive, and a great way to describe your accomplishments. Plus it sounds neat. And shoot, even Wild Carders can win a pennant. Besides, in a list like this, who needs a reason?
1. It’s an odd-numbered year. It’s no secret the Indians do their best work in odd-numbered years. Whether it’s 1995, 1997, 2005 or that shining October of ‘07, these have been the times we’ve relished. Sure, 2009 and 2011 were dreadful, but at least 2009 wasn’t full of false hope like the year prior, and 2011 gave us a bit or a ride there before the wheels came off. We got a couple neat months of Orlando Cabrera convincing Asdrubal Cabrera to swing for the fences, we saw the debut of Jason Kipnis (we’re getting there, eventually), and they were almost a .500 team at 80-82. More importantly, the Royals finished behind the Tribe, and all was right with the world.
2. I heard “Black Magic Woman” by Carlos Santana on the radio on the same day our Carlos Santana hit his first home run of the spring. You can’t tell me that’s not a sign. I was listening to 97.1 The Drive in Chicago while slaving away in the salt mines of Lake Michigan when those distinctive tones came through the speaker. Shortly afterward, Santana hit a donker against the Brewers. I haven’t heard that song in years, and the same day it comes on the radio, one that never plays Santana, our boy goes yard? It’s kismet. He’s going crazy this season.
3. Trevor Bauer is terrible at rapping. I’m not one to knock a guy for his hobbies, and I found what Bauer spat to be kind of funny, but it’s a fact of life you can’t both spit hot fire and hurl the same. Eminem has a noodle arm, and Randy Johnson has no rhythm. It’s basketball, but Snoop Dogg had a scholarship, but quit school to rap—one or the other. Wiz Khalifa is a Pirates fan, and they haven’t won anything lately. That’s called the transitive property, folks.
4. Ubaldo Jimenez can’t possibly be this bad again, right? I mean, he was pretty dreadful to watch last year, downright painful at times. He has to be a little bit better at least. Of course, I said that about Fausto Carmona for two years, and he literally ceased to exist as we knew him. But really, this isn’t even that irrational, except that we all sat through that 2012 campaign. His FIP was a full run-and-a-quarter higher than his career averages (5.06 to 3.84 career), that’s gotta come back down. But hey, who knows. Maybe he’s spending his time in Arizona spirit questing and finding himself, and his fastball. That gives me as much hope as anything.
5. Miguel Cabrera won’t win the Triple Crown again. He’s in the division and is a pretty big rock to get around, but he can’t do what he did last year, it was an anomaly. Right? Winning the Triple Crown means he’s the best player in baseball, because the BBWAA said so, and they’re infallible. Don’t they rent the Chair of St. Peter during awards season and Hall of Fame voting? So yeah, with Cabrera no longer the best player in the game, it opens it up for someone else—say, Santana—to take those reins. Or Kipnis. I’d rather it be Kipnis.
6. Albert Belle Bobblehead Night. It’s June 1st, if you were curious. If this were Diablo, that’d be +10 to strength right there.
7. They’ve gotten bigger. Last year, they had Justin Masterson, 6 feet, 6 inches and 250 pounds of Jamaican fury. That was about it. Nick Hagadone is 230 and 6’5″, and Chris Perez also checks in at 230 pounds. This year, we have Brett Myers (6’4″, 240) Mike Aviles is big for a middle infielder at 205, Asdrubal Cabrera has added weight, Mark Reynolds is an imposing figure, and Nick Swisher is just a brick house of a man. They had the pieces last year, but now there’s a real ability to put the fear of god in the other team. Don’t tell me that being physically imposing isn’t helpful in baseball. Randy Johnson was terrifying. Loek Van Mil couldn’t hit 90 mph despite his height, but he still got paid real money to play baseball.
8. Ryan Raburn is plainly Jose Bautista 2.0. Maybe 1.5 or so, but still, remember how all it took for Bats to find his place was a little tweak in his swing? With all the power Raburn is flashing in Spring Training, it seems to me he’s found his way, as well. Sure the high, thin air of Arizona is much more forgiving than the cold dankness of Cleveland. Sure, it’s against rinsed-down talent. But who knows, maybe he found a guru in the Andes mountains that knows the ancient art of clubbing, passed down from his Incan ancestors who so dominated Tlachtli (the sport that included beheadings and such) when they used their clubs.
9. Cheap beer and cheaper hot dogs at the Prog. Everyone will be in a good mood and hopefully so hopped up on nitrates they’ll go crazy for their Tribesmen. Though really, this one might be a problem. Fans are going to be too loaded down to cheer. The team need that atmosphere of borderline insanity to buoy them in those tough months. Maybe the concession people should have looked into all-you-can-eat salad bars all over the park.
10. Terry Francona’s utter disregard for Major League Baseball’s attire conventions. In short, Tito don’t wear no jersey. Remember when he got warned and nearly fined for not wearing a uniform shirt under his windbreaker in Boston? That was in 2007, and I’m pretty sure the team as a whole was so indignant at this affront to their beloved skipper that they rallied and won a title, just to stick it to the league. Now, if he came out and wore a seersucker suit and a sweet hat, I can’t imagine anything less than a world championship. Such is the magic of Terry Francona.
There are real, concrete reasons the Indians might win a flag this fall: vastly improved defense, great on-base ability and speed on the basepaths, a strong bullpen, bounceback potential from three or four starters. But don’t let that take away from the irrational hopes, because even when reality breaks down, we’ll still have something.