I'm optimistic... again
The Indians open spring training on Sunday with the reporting of pitchers and catchers - and I've got a good feeling about this year's team.
How's that for a group of words that have been uttered every year by any fan of Cleveland sports?
But this year, I think the optimism is legit.
Try these reasons on for size:
-- The Indians should be able to score some runs this year. With the addition of outfielders Nick Swisher and Drew Stubbs, first baseman Mark Reynolds and utility man Mike Aviles, the Indians finally have some run-producers. Sure, there will be a ton of strikeouts included with that group (well, at least anyone not named 'Mike Aviles), but the additions can all knock the ball out of the park. That's something the Indians haven't had in a while.
-- The starting pitching can't be that bad again. (Can it?) Justin Masterson isn't going to repeat last year' (11-15, 4.93) and neither is Ubaldo Jiminez (9-17, 5.40). Why? First off, because they're better than that. Secondly, the addition of some offensive threats means they won't feel like they have to be perfect every night. Last season, giving up a 3-spot meant the game was over. At the very least, the game was in serious jeopardy. That's how bad the Indians offense was. With the new offense, the starting pitchers won't feel they have to be perfect. They can attack the strike zone and pitch to contact. Which brings me to....
-- This is a pretty good defensive team. Michael Brantley in left, Drew Stubbs in center and Nick Swisher in right is an outfield that will track down gap shots and take away a lot of hits that fell when people like Shelley Duncan (OUCH) were patrolling the green pastures last year. Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis are above average up the middle in the infield, too.
Add into that the undisputed facts that the Indians' bullpen is one of the best in the game and the leadership of new manager Terry Francona is refreshing and should make a difference.
Will it be enough for the Indians to go toe-to-toe with the Detroit Tigers for AL Central supremacy? Not a shot. But at least there's a reason for optimism, because this team is much better than last season.
This year is going to be different.
At least until it's time for the fan base to start muttering, "Wait 'til next year."
- John Kampf