2013: This is a Tribe Town
When the Indians signed Nick Swisher after a disastrous 2012 season, optimism was running high. His bubbly personality couldn’t help but rub off on his teammates. The Dolans were willing to open the checkbook (the four-year deal was $56 million, with a club option for a fifth year bringing the deal to a staggering $70 million, more than the Indians had ever paid for a free agent) and made the pitch for the Ohio native to return home.
Now that Swisher’s riding off into the sunset, announcing his retirement about a year and a half after the Indians decided they’d rather eat Chris Johnson’s salary than keep him around, we can close the book on him. (Insert Harry Doyle saying, “Thank God.”) Swisher’s signing was a bad marriage that actually might have held back the team’s success.
Swisher was 32 when the Indians signed him – an age typically regarded as being on the down slope of a player’s career. But there was no reason to believe he wouldn’t play – and wouldn’t produce. In each of the previous eight years, he’d played at least 130 games (and at least 150 in six of those years). His average wasn’t great, but he was good for at least 20 home runs.
He came to Cleveland in a blockbuster trade, played the bulk of his career here as part of those great teams in the 1990s, and the entirety of his coaching and managing career was here.
But as another Indians season ends, you can’t help but wonder: How long can Sandy Alomar Jr. stay with the Indians?
Almost since the time he rejoined the Indians coaching staff, he’s been good for one or two interviews each off-season – and his name has already been linked to the opening in San Diego (the Padres will not be retaining Pat Murphy, who became interim manager after Bud Black – another former Indian – was fired in June).
The Cleveland Indians ended a great season on an incredible run. They went 21-6 in the month of September, the best record in the Major Leagues. They ended the season in a fantastic 10 game winning streak. A few players stepped up big time to push the offense and help drive the team to victory after victory, and those players played above and beyond their season numbers to lead the Tribe to their first post season since 2007.
The Cleveland Indians stormed into the post season with a flurry, but the one game playoff proved to be their undoing as they were defeated by the Tampa Bay Rays 4-0.
The Indians have fought so hard, battled through tough times, and survived 162 games to reach the 2013 Major League Playoffs. With 92 wins on the season, the Tribe scratched and clawed their way into the post season for the first time since 2007. Monday evening, the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Texas Rangers to win the right to play the Cleveland Indians in this one game wild card playoff. It is elimination time, win and move on, lose and go home, no second chances.
For the first time since 2007, Progressive Field will be host to a postseason game.
The Cleveland Indians will welcome the Tampa Bay Rays for the American League Wild Card game on Wednesday night at 8:07 PM ET at the landmark still affectionately referred to as Jacobs Field by a large portion of the Cleveland fan base. The contest can be seen on TBS and heard on ESPN Radio.
When the Indians host the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Wild Card Game tonight in the Tribe’s first playoff appearance since 2007, Cleveland manager Terry Francona will have come full circle. As the nemesis when his Boston Red Sox overcame a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Tribe for the AL pennant, Francona has seen what Progressive Field is like in October.
While it is safe to expect a huge and boisterous crowd at Progressive Field on Wednesday, the days of sellouts for all 81 home games are long gone. The Tribe’s manager, however, is pragmatic about the numbers. While Cleveland did not have the best attendance during the regular season, Francona—who finished with an above .500 record for the ninth straight season—understands the fragility of the economic times in Ohio and the recent performance of the Indians since the near-pennant campaign six years ago.
Rewind to January 14, 2013. It was a wintery Monday in Cleveland, hardly a day that would stand out in the mind of most baseball fans, or a day that would seem exciting come the postseason.
It was the Lake County Captains’ Hot Stove Dinner, a chance to get Clevelanders excited about the upcoming baseball season and the culmination of the Winter Development Program, in which a handful of the Indians’ organization’s top prospects made their way to Cleveland to learn about and become better acquainted with the world of professional baseball and the Cleveland Indians. Among these young, promising players was one player whom Indians’ fans are now very well acquainted – Danny Salazar.
January 14 was my first encounter with Salazar, and I remember being impressed with his humble demeanor. When the dinner was over, however, he didn’t stick out in my mind as the guy to watch in the group. But my, how glad I am that this was not the case.
Since the return of Justin Masterson from a left oblique injury sustained in an early September start, there have been questions about how Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona would use his number one starter.
Cleveland received a giant shot in the arm last week when Masterson rejoined the pitching staff after missing three weeks with the injury. The team was cautious with the starter after he left in the second inning of his September 2nd start against the Baltimore Orioles. He faced just five batters in that appearance, walking the leadoff hitter in the first and giving up a single to start the second to his final batter.
After being shut down for nine days, he threw several sessions from 90 and 120 feet before throwing a 33-pitch bullpen session and a simulated game on Sunday, September 22nd. He rejoined the team that week as a member of the bullpen, with many believing that the Indians would use the opportunity to have him pitch in live games while stretching him back out to starter innings in the event that the Indians made the playoffs.
Now that the champagne has stopped pouring and the celebration has subsided, the Indians have a winner-take-all, elimination game on Wednesday against the winner of the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers to prepare for. The two teams face off tonight in Arlington, Texas. The winner will advance to Progressive Field for Wednesday night’s Wild Card game.
One of the loopholes in the one-game Wild Card playoff is that Major League Baseball considers it its own round of playoffs, meaning teams can set their roster for the game as they wish, then if they advance, reset their roster for the Divisional Series.
Sometimes it works out just the way it was planned.
As Ubaldo Jimenez carved up the Minnesota Twins for a 5-1 victory Sunday afternoon to earn their first postseason birth since 2007, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti had to feel like the fruits of his labor were finally paying off. Antonetti, who made the controversial and blockbuster trade for Jimenez on July 30, 2011 watched him toss one of his best games as an Indian in likely his biggest game as a Wahoo.
“It’s a testament to these guys to win 10 in a row and we needed everyone of them,” Antonetti told SportsTime Ohio after the Indians clinched a wild card birth. “It will be fun to come back to Cleveland and win some games.”
If, at the beginning of the season, someone would have told me Ubaldo Jimenez would be on the mound for the Cleveland Indians at the end of September with an American League Wild Card spot on the line, I would have cringed at the thought.
It is amazing how six months can completely change your mind.
For three perfect innings, Cleveland Indians’ fans were left scratching their heads asking, when did Cole De Vries become a future Hall of Famer?
After the first eleven batters were retired in order, including five on strikeouts, a Jason Kipnis single up the middle and a monster home run to right by Carlos Santana woke the sleeping offense, as the Indians went on to win by a 5-1 final over the Minnesota Twins on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
The win pushed the Indians’ season record to 91-70 and put them in the driver’s seat in the American League Wild Card race with one final game remaining. They are 20-6 in the month of September.