12 Tribe Gifts of Christmas
Laurel Wilder | On 25, Dec 2014
Merry Christmas, Tribe fans. Inspired by the Indians #12DaysofTribe social media contests, here are 12 Tribe Gifts for Christmas, some intangibles that the team gave fans this season, to reflect on the Christmas morning.
12. Games finished by Carlos Carrasco this season.
And he also started 14 games. Carrasco had, arguably, one of the most impressive seasons for a Tribe pitcher, a certain ace notwithstanding. Carrasco, who struggled in seasons past and seemed to be suffering from exhaustion and lack of motivation, stunned crowds when he made the move from starting at the beginning of the season to the bullpen as the season went on. He showed immense promise out of the ‘pen and, as the Indians continued to jostle their rotations, Carrasco was moved back to a starting role at the end of the season. The result was nothing short of phenomenal. Fans can thank Mickey Callaway for working his pitching coach magic yet again, and can keep their fingers crossed that the Carrasco who ended this past season will be the same one who starts 2015.
11. Number of walk-off wins in 2014
And they weren’t all typical walk-offs, either. Yes, there were walk-off homers by clutch hitters like Michael Brantley, but there were also a number of atypical game-enders, such as Nick Swisher’s walk-off grand slam, Zach Walters’ walk-off home runs almost immediately after joining the squad, and, of course, the balk-off that gave the Indians the one run they needed to beat Detroit 11-10 after more than five hours and 13 innings of play.
10. Saves by John Axford before he went to Pittsburgh but not before he left his mustached mark on his Cleveland teammates
Okay, so the number of saves may not be anything special, but the mustache most certainly was. Axford became more than well-known for his well-groomed and suave facial hair, a trend which did not leave when the less-than-stellar closer was sent to Pittsburgh for outfielder Chris Dickerson. The Indians rekindled the look in August when the team donned rally ‘staches during their late-season playoff push, which may have accounted for a few wins but most definitely led to fan enjoyment, Twitter fodder, and a key to determining everyone’s ages. Scott Atchison and Kyle Crockett do not have the same ability to grow hair on their upper lip.
9. RBIs by Lonnie Chisenhall on June 9 when the Indians defeated Texas 17-7.
The Indians didn’t have a lot of offense this season, so it was shocking to so much as see them get nine runs on the board total, much less nine runs by one player. Yet the bats of their roster made the most noise down south in Texas in early June when the Indians routed the Rangers 17-7 and Chisenhall had what just may be the game of his life, which included nine RBI and ended with his bat in getting sent to Cooperstown.
8. Most games over .500 this season.
For the first time in years, the Indians have had two winning seasons in a row. While there are no pennants to show for it, Terry Francona is doing something right with his roster as he keeps them in winning. If this trend keeps up, there’s no telling what the team could do. A little momentum can go a long way.
Walters has potential. While it got increasingly easier to see Cabrera go as the season wore on, it was still a little heart wrenching (for some of us) to see the long-time Tribe shortstop sent away to the Nationals. While a move like this would happen sooner or later, especially with Francisco Lindor continuing his ascent through the Tribe’s system, it happened suddenly this year, with the Tribe getting a young player in return whom no one had really heard much about. However, Walters asserted himself as an invaluable member of the Tribe’s lineup as he mashed seven home runs. If he can continue his development at the plate, he has potential to be a solid DH should a position in the field not present itself.
Sure, the Indians starting rotation suffered through a multitude of changes and rearrangements this season, but that didn’t stop it from becoming one of the most dominant forces in all of baseball. There were numerous times when starting pitchers went deep into games, often into the seventh or eighth innings, but, combined, Tribe starters threw six complete games. Kluber himself threw three and the combined effort catapulted the Tribe’s pitching power to the forefront of opposing teams’ minds.
5. Games back at the end of the season.
At one point, they were 10.5 games back in the division early in the season. However, speaking to their abilities, the Tribe clamored their way upwards as the season continued, constantly fighting and vying for a spot as one of the division’s best and potentially a play-off spot. They were statistically in the mix until the final homestand of the season. They ended five games back of the lead, not enough to make it but not enough to lose all hope, either.
4. Games Justin Masterson won before he was traded to the Cardinals.
One of the hardest things for Tribe fans to grapple with in the past few seasons likely was the decline of Masterson, their once-ace and most reliable pitcher. As seasons progressed, however, Masterson lost command and velocity and, despite being named the Tribe’s Opening Day starter for three years in a row and even being named an All-Star in 2013, a season which had him finishing out of the bullpen, he slowly began losing fans, as well. At the trade deadline, the Indians did what would once have been considered unthinkable, and traded Masterson to the Cardinals after he won only four games in the 2014 season. The Indians wore high socks in the game following Masterson’s trade, demonstrating his influence and the lasting impression he left on this team.
3. Place in the American League Central Division at the end of the season.
Five games back meant ending third in the AL Central this season, trailing the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers for a playoff run. The AL Central is quickly becoming the division to watch out for in the next season, as the Royals and Tigers have started adding big and powerful names to the rosters, and the Indians are working to do the same. During this offseason, it appears that players are flocking to play for teams in this division, meaning the division race will likely be even tighter this year, and third place could be decided by an even tighter margin.
2. Number of Silver Sluggers winners.
They had only one All-Star, but the Indians closed out the season with a plethora of recognition, including Silver Slugger awards going to Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes, the Indians two most reliable hitters of the season. Brantley and Gomes also both with the Tribe for at least another three seasons (Brantley is signed through 2017, Gomes through 2019), meaning offense at least has this spark for a few seasons to come. Both players are also young, but have asserted themselves as some of the best in the game. If the Indians are going to make it to the playoffs in the near future, these two are certainly going to be a big reason why.
1. Number of Cy Young winners on the Indians pitching staff.
Of course, the list ends with Kluber, the ace that replaced Masterson and the player who should have joined Brantley as an All-Star. Despite the snub, Kluber earned the recognition he deserved when he was awarded the AL Cy Young award in November. 2014 was his breakout season, and it seems that it was no flash in the pan. Kluber has the makings of a consistently dominant pitcher, and a 2015 season that is just as good, if not better, than his 2014 is a Christmas gift every Tribe fan should want this holiday. I’m surprised fans haven’t started calling it “Kluber-mas” yet.
Bonus Gifts and Stocking Stuffers:
It wouldn’t be Christmas without some extra gifts. Though the didn’t make the main list, the season would not be complete without mentioning the time Jason Kipnis and Chisenhall did the YMCA during a pause in the game, Kipnis and Mike Aviles tarp sliding during a rain delay, and Carlos Santana‘s Twitter account.
Lump of Coal for the Not-so-Nice Tribe Fans:
Were you naughty this year? Here, remember Ryan Raburn‘s spike from left field. Now try to be nicer next year.
Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images