Nick’s Picks: Cleveland Indians a Darkhorse to Watch in AL Central
The Cleveland Indians finished 4th in the AL Central with a 68-94 record in the 2012 season. The Tribe has not made the playoffs since 2007, nor have they won a pennant since 1997 and dare I say that they have not won a World Series since 1948. The Tribe has also lost long-time players such as Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore to injury and free agency, but with the way the season ended it was time for a change.
The Indians also face an uphill battle in their division with the Detroit Tigers the AL Champion and the Chicago White Sox who had a great run last season. So why are the Cleveland Indians my AL Central “Nick’s Pick” team to watch this season? Well it is quite simple; they have a lot to prove and have made some moves that should benefit their team for years to come. Their biggest move was signing their new coach, Terry Francona. Francona’s previous work was coaching the Red Sox to two World Series titles in 2004 (lifting the alleged curse of the Bambino) and 2007, which was the year that his Red Sox beat the Indians in the ALCS.
I really think Francona is a perfect fit for the job; the Indians do not spend the money that the Red Sox did, nor have the top stars, but they do have some top prospects in shortstop Francisco Lindor and pitcher Trevor Bauer, who they acquired in an off-season trade with the Arizona Diamond backs. Look for Bauer to try to crack the Indians rotation this upcoming season. The Tribe also bolstered their lineup with first basemen Mark Reynolds and right fielder Nick Swisher. If the two of them stay healthy they could easily hit 25-plus homeruns this season, which is a necessity on the Indians team that was ranked 25th in homeruns with their top homerun hitter Carlos Santana leading with just 18.
The Indians rotation and bullpen is a big question mark going into the season. The Tribe was 29th in ERA and Strikeouts, both of which need to be addressed. The Indians do have closer Chris Perez, who had a career high 39 saves and they also exercised Ubaldo Jimenez’s contract for 2013. Jimenez has struggled in the AL since being traded from Colorado in 2011, but he is still a good pitcher and could turn it around this season with hard work and a little luck. The Tribe also has Justin Masterson, Zachary McAllister in their rotation with what seems like Brett Myers, Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer competing for a spot on the rotation, it could lead to some interesting results this season.
So why are the Indians my pick for the team to watch this season? It is quite simple, with Francona as the new manager and his coaching philosophy being preached to the team it will be a breath of fresh air and with a little hard work coming from the players the Indians could be a top team in the years to come, they just need the right push. Next up, the NL Central – who shall I go with? Hmm…
Side note: A random thought had occurred (I might be wrong) – last year there was a report that the Indians management was blown away by the fact that they were not having large crowds while the Indians were winning and were pleading to the fans to go see their team play. Now when something like that comes up it can scare people into thinking that the owners may be contemplating on selling or moving the team, which is never a fun thing to deal with – just ask the Atlanta Thrashers, Phoenix Coyotes, Sacramento Kings and the Montreal Expos. I have gone through losing the Expos, a team that I loved, and trust me it is far from fun. Again, I am not sure what is going on in Cleveland and hopefully it is nothing, but my point is this; if you are an Indians fan please go out once in a while and support your team. Baseball is a great family sport, and I wish I could go see games daily. I really miss that. So please go out and support your team because sometimes you only realize what you had when it is finally gone.
Next Up NL Central Pick. Check back soon!