I love baseball, I really do. Why else do I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking, watching and writing about it? It’s captivating, fun, interesting, and thought-provoking.
The same cannot always be said of the team that’s captured my allegiance, the Cleveland Indians. Sure, I support them root for them, defend them in bars and internet forums endlessly, but I don’t always love them. After all, there have been some lean years and some just plain bad teams.
The 2011 version had a small amount of promise that was robbed by injuries and unsuccessful trades. The 2012 version was fool’s gold. Even the 2007 version, the one that got all the way to the ALCS and should have won it—I liked that team but I didn’t love it. They were fun, there were some characters, but there was no flavor. Their best player was a lead-by-example type, and those are no fun. They’re not demonstrative, they never fire anyone up, they’re just good at what they do and go home. Eric Wedge was fine, he got the job done, but ultimately I could have done without him.
Life is different for Indians fans now. It’s funny how one offseason can change everything, but I feel like I’ve gone from grinding through a season to looking forward to each and every game.
I can’t help but admit it, I’ve fallen in love with this Cleveland Indians squad.
It’s not that it was a hard sell for them to win me over. I love baseball in all forms. I actually saw the Cubs lose their 101st game last year, a marathon of misery against the Houston Astros that I live-tweeted. Heck, I spent three years covering a pretty terrible Division-III college team. Even in their one conference-winning season, they went 8-8 in conference play and something like 9-21 overall. (That last number is probably overly generous.)
So I came into 2013 excited for baseball because it’s baseball. The rhythm of my summer is predicated around the game more or less, and a lot of my paycheck is typically dedicated to buying tickets. Despite the moves the Indians made in the offseason, from Nick Swisher and Brett Myers to the Shin-Soo Choo trade and the surprise late pickup of Michael Bourn as well as the evolution of the youngsters, I didn’t have high hopes. My irrational fan side decided the playoffs are in the cards, but I was just looking forward to seeing my team and whiling another summer away in sunshine and beer drinking.
But then the winter was full of awesome things. The Indians somehow became the frontrunners and then payers for the services of Terry Francona, whose ebullience knows no bounds. Cleveland instantly became an attractive place to play and Francona wouldn’t stop talking about how excited he was for 2013 (nor should he have). The difference in demeanor between him and Manny Acta is like pie and poison. And I love pie.
Then they gave us all a Christmas present, signing perma-smiling and baseball-clubbing Nick Swisher to a four-year deal, the largest in club history. Unlike the last largest deal in club history, Nick can play a couple positions in the field and he is able to stay healthy. I can’t say enough about Swiserh, and the ability to comment on his Swishaliciousness this season is nothing short of exciting. As Yankees broadcaster John Sterling noted, he’s sweet as candy.
The Mark Reynolds signing was borderline magical, though. When Adam Dunn was a free agent I hoped against hope the Indians would sign him. He’s my favorite, and though he plays for a detested rival I love where I live because the Donkey is a short El ride away. Reynolds isn’t Dunn, but he’s close enough. Boom or bust, essentially the summation of what this whole offense can be.
The pitching looks about the same, but I liked what I liked about them all last year, and hated a bunch of stuff too. Aneurysms and heart palpitations are a way of life with Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound but it makes you feel alive; I’d love to have it any other way but this is what we get. Though Carlos Carrasco lost it in his first start in a long time, sometimes you want a little crazy. As a writer, I want a good story as much as anything. On top of all sits a gigantic Jamaican dude with the baldest head on earth and a funny beard sometimes. It’s kind of a mediocre rotation, really. (There’s no “but” here, if you’ve noticed a pattern in my writings.) However, I did like the ill-fated Daisuke Matsuzaka signing, even if it didn’t work out and Scott Kazmir might end up being totally dynamite.
The dual bombs of the Choo trade (I liked him but knew he was on the way out) and the Bourn signing were like a delicious buttercream icing on a pretty good, I don’t know, mocha cake? (Devil’s food is a little much.) A fascinating young pitcher who can rap really terribly, a fleet-footed center fielder with the same last name as a certain young woman I know, and the second coming of Kenny Lofton? It’s gravy, baby. Having three center fielders is neat, even if the Texas Rangers are going one better and getting all the shortstops. Death to flying things and all that.
I don’t know how good this team is going to be, but like Francona said, I’m excited to see how good they can become. I already love Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Carlos Santana, and Asdrubal Cabrera. These guys are just a fantastic group of knucklehead-seeming, fun-loving, jolly good time-having so and so’s. I’m not sure what that means, but who cares. Oh, and the Bullpen Mafia makes the 12-year-old version of me laugh.
Baseball is fun again in the Land of Cleve. Here’s to a great summer.