By Tim Palumbo
O Say Can You C
To start this list I would like to make a tribute to Orlando Cabrera who has recently become a U.S. citizen. Many of us are born into this great country with the privilege of being an American citizen with no merit needed. Orlando achieved his citizenship through many years of residency, but we all know he couldn’t have made that happen without his excellence on and off the field. He is now is a proud citizen of the greatest country on Earth. Congrats O.C. – it’s been an honor to have you on the Cleveland Indians.
#5 – Travis Hafner Resurgence
Travis Hafner has answered the critics and reassured his fan base that his raw hitting abilities are not a result of performance enhancing drugs. We can close the book on the debate, and leave it with its proven and logical answer; that his slumping and limited plate appearances in the past few years were the result of the many injuries. With Pronk’s big bat back in the lineup, and the Indians fighting for command of first place in the AL Central, it feels like ’07 in ’11.
#4 – Indians All-Stars
With the Indians surprising start to the 2011 season, you can make numerous cases on why they are there. Stellar defense? Clutch hitting? Bullpen? Strong outings by starting pitching? Superb managing? I would say it’s a combination of all the above and that is why Asdrubal Cabrera, Chris Perez, and Manny Acta will be representing the Cleveland Indians in the All-Star Game in Arizona tonight. Every player and staff member on this team has played a crucial role in the success of the Tribe this season, but with the Beasts from the East making up a large portion of the roster this year, only a select few, very deserving Indians could go.
#3 – D-Choo-I
You can cross alcohol off the list of performance enhancing drugs, well at least for baseball. Austin Kearns and Shin-Soo Choo’s plate performances stink as bad as their breath with their batting averages and breathalyzer giving off the same readings in the first half of the season. Their slow start and run-ins with the law had many people wondering if The Betty Ford Clinic is the right place for a rehab assignment. Choo’s batting average began to rise along with his sobriety before a breaking his hand, which will keep him sidelined for the next two months.
#2 – Josh Tomlin
The entire MLB knows that the next great pitcher could very well come from the Cy Young power house Cleveland Indians. With Fausto Carmona being the first name that comes to mind, because of his flashes of greatness, not many people saw this one coming, at least not this soon. Josh Tomlin, a home grown pitcher of the Tribe’s world class farm system, is the first player since 1919 to go five innings or more in their first 29 career starts. With 10 wins so far this season, superb pitch command, baseball IQ, and mental toughness, he is the clear ace of the rotation and could be the next Big Ticket Pitcher coming out of Cleveland.
#1 – No Bull Bullpen
I know there are many stories I left out this year (so I will just put them in the honorable mention category) but nothing sticks out more than the league leading Cleveland Indians bullpen. With All-Star closer Chris Perez leading the way alongside his resilient and very talented set up crew, the Tribe has been able to keep leads and win in last at-bat heroics all season long. Set-up man Vinny Pestano is now a house hold name and Rafael Perez is the shut down lefty we knew him as in ’07. Don’t forget about Joe Smith and Tony Sipp, and their incredible contributions game in and game out. The Indians look like they have cracked the hardest code to crack in the MLB, a reliable bullpen. Without these guys, the tribe could easily be the same squad we watched painfully the last few years.
Honorable Mention: Longest Home Winning streak, Asdrubal Cabrera MVP, Masterful Masterson, Injured but still in First, Late inning Heroics