The date was April 7, 1989 and I remember getting drug to the movie theater to see some movie about the Cleveland Indians which at that time in my life I just knew them as the “Mistake by the Lake.” What I didn’t realize as I waited in line for popcorn was that the team often ridiculed was about to become America’s team when the movie debuted at #1 in the country. The story of misfits leading their team to the pennant will probably go down as one of the Greatest sports films of all time and it doesn’t include the Yankees or Dodgers instead it includes the Cleveland Indians. Five years after the film debuted the real life Indians started a run of their own and the city of Cleveland loved it. But life goes in cycles and the “Mistake by the Lake” took over The Jake as the stars retired or were traded away similar to how Rachel Phelps tried to strip away the team in Major League. But here we are February 11, 2013 and the Indians that have been in rebuilding mode for most of the last twelve years excluding a complete meltdown in the ALCS in 2007 are looking much like a team that can be the talk of the town again.
In this installment of the Cleveland Indians there will not be groundskeepers wondering “who the hell are these guys,” because many of them are familiar faces. The guys coming back are Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall and often mentioned trade bait Asdrubal Cabrera. This core group of returning fielders has an average age of 25.4 which is a very young nucleus. Some of the key pitchers returning are Ubaldo Jiminez, Justin Masterson and Carlos Carrasco along with closer Chris Perez.
The key additions by the Dolan family should propel this team to great heights for the next few years and all of it starts with the hiring of Terry Francona to manage the team. This could be the greatest manager hire for the Indians since they brought in Mike Hargrove back in 1991. It took Hargrove three years to make serious noise and his season was derailed by a players strike. Look for Francona to make noise this year. Indians fans have to be ecstatic when realize that Terry is the man who ended the long drought for Red Sox Nation by winning two World Series championships. Tribe fans have waited 64 years and counting for a chance to call their team champion.
Francona will have help though and for the first time in a long time the help being brought in comes with a lot of excitement. The biggest acquisition is probably debate-able but for me it has to be Nick Swisher. Swisher from Columbus, Ohio hit .272 with 24 HR’s and 93 RBI’s for the New York Yankees. All great stats but what will mean the most for the Tribe will be his personality and leadership. Swisher is a goofy, fun loving guy and this will help the Tribe the same way a fella named Damon helped Francona win his 2 titles in Boston. The next addition just happened a few hours ago as NL All Star Michael Bourn signed on to patrol center for the Indians. This came as a shock to many including some of his new teammates. Jason Kipnis tweeted “Did we just sign Michael Bourn?!” Bourn reminds me a lot of Kenny Lofton who helped lead the Indians to the top of baseball. Bourn hit .274 with 9 HR’s and 57 RBI last year for the Braves but it is his 42 stolen bases that have fans of the tribe excited by his arrival. Throw in Mark Reynolds who has power and got some great playoff experience last year vs the Yankees, Mike Aviles, Drew Stubbs and pitcher Brett Myers and the Indians are sure to cause headaches for the Tigers this season. A couple other players that may make an appearance wearing Chief Wahoo this year are Jason Giambi, Dice-K, Jeremy Hermida, pitcher Matt Capps, Ryan Raburn and Ben Fransisco.
I see this team making the strides this year to be a contender. Look for Stubbs or Brantley to find their way out of Cleveland in some kind of package deal to land a Starting pitcher. Once the team gels the Tigers will find themselves in a dog fight that will last all summer long. The Indians will eventually take a Wild Card spot and end up losing to the Angels in the ALCS in 5 games. Just like Major League though look for the sequel to include a trip to the World Series in 2014.
Did we just sign michael Bourn?!