I’m really excited about 2013, everyone. I know I said this last year, and regardless of what happens this year, I’ll say it again next year.
Last year I came up with a list of reasons to be excited for 2012. It included The Bullpen Mafia, the young roster, the potential rebound of players returning from injury, the idea of the unknown and the question: What if? I think I really was excited. I think I really did believe in the idea that 2012 could bring great things. But in the end, it was a real letdown.
This time, I really mean it. I think the Indians really could shake things up in the AL Central this year. I’m hesitant to let myself believe that there could be a playoff run in the works though. For now, I won’t buy into that. I need this team to prove itself to me first. It’s like that guy that broke up with you over the phone or something and wants you to take him back. I’m not like Taylor Swift, it’s not like we are never, ever getting back together, but we’re going to have to talk about some things first. I think the Indians are the main reason I have trust issues.
But I am excited. How could I not be? Here are five reasons why this year really could be the year for the Cleveland Indians.
The clubhouse culture. How could anyone see that Harlem Shake video and not want to see a fun group of guys go out and compete? If they’re going to have fun, they’re going to be relaxed. The clubhouse culture was missing before and I think that with Terry Francona it’s back. Looking back to 2007, I see a loose team that was having fun on and off the field. I see a team that smeared shaving cream in each other’s faces after wins. They were fun to watch. They gave you something to look forward to. I think this year has the potential to be the same. I think that if this team is having as much fun as they’ve had during Spring Training and as much fun as I believe they can continue to have, then the wins will come.
Dollar Dog Night, guys. I think that speaks for itself. And if it doesn’t, how could you not be excited about getting ballpark hot dogs for a dollar? Unless you’re a vegetarian—then I’m just sorry. There are more Dollar Dog Nights this year, with a total of 15. And if I’m being honest, my favorite part about Dollar Dog Night isn’t the actual hot dogs, believe it or not. I mean I like them and all but I’m not going to eat that much. No, the best part about Dollar Dog Nights is the atmosphere. People come out in droves on those nights. The buzz around the ballpark is incredible, even in the middle of the week. Add in a team that’s starting to look good, really quickly, and those games are sure to be a blast. In general, I think the buzz around this team is enough to bring fans out to the ballpark. There is nothing I love more than a game when Progressive Field packed to capacity and everyone on their feet, clapping to the steady beat of John Adams’ drum.
Nick Swisher. How often do players get excited to play in Cleveland? I can’t think of many instances. Well, I can’t think of any, actually. But Swisher is genuinely happy to be here. Any player that embraces the city and isn’t waiting for the next opportunity to jump ship (even if any Major League team would welcome him to their lineup) is a player to be excited about. He will have an effect on the lineup and in the clubhouse. He will be a positive presence for this team and we have yet to see the full extent of it. I’m excited to see how great he will be.
That lineup. The pitching scares me. The pitching will always scare me. But that lineup really has potential. I get chills thinking about it. Is it perfect? No. Are there unproven pieces? Yes. It all line up just perfectly though. The burden won’t be placed on the shoulders of just a few players. Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis won’t be expected to carry the team. That could make a huge difference. They can relax at the plate with less pressure riding on what they do. In an interview with MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, Terry Francona mentioned that Michael Brantley felt forced into a leadership roll last season. That pressure did nothing to help him on the field. Swisher will certainly alleviate some of that burden. He’s been in a leadership role before. Brantley spoke about how he was forced into a leadership role in the past season. That won’t be the case this year. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited about a lineup that boasts Swisher, Kipnis, Cabrera, Chisenhall, Santana, Mark Reynolds, Michael Bourn, Brantley and Drew Stubbs. They could do some damage.
The revamp. Bastian wrote about the excitement the team has heading into the season—about how so few of the players were even there for the collapse of last season. I’m as sentimental as the next person, probably more. My heart sinks a little at the thought of Grady Sizemore’s fade from the game. It just won’t feel right to go to a game and not hear “Choo”-ing. I get attached to players like any other fan. In that regard, heading into the season is strange. I hardly recognize this team anymore. For the Indians though, I think that’s a good thing. There are 12 players on the Opening Day roster who were not with the Indians last year. A fresh start could be what this team needs—players who aren’t haunted by what happened last season. That team wasn’t getting it done. Maybe this one can. That’s yet to be seen, but the steps have been taken to give them a chance. The front office was in rare form this past offseason. That was what this team needed—new faces and a new chance.
I don’t know if this is next year. I didn’t know last year either. Even if this year doesn’t bring the desired amount of wins, the reasons I give are meant to be something to be excited for—not to guarantee wins. I think they’ll come though. And even if this isn’t the year, the reasons I give are just the beginning of something new. These reasons are the building blocks for a brighter future that had looked always looked bleak before now.