16 Reasons Why Sports Illustrated Didn’t Just Jinx the Indians
Jonathan Knight | On 27, Mar 2015
Well, they went and did it again.
Twenty-eight years after forecasting an “Indian Uprising” that resulted in a 101-loss dumpster fire, Sports Illustrated has once again picked an upstart Tribe team to emerge from the middle of the pack and win it all.
And they packaged this news in essentially the exact same wrapping paper: Corey Kluber and Michael Brantley grinning like mental patients from the cover, not unlike Cory Snyder and Joe Carter back in 1987.
Even if you don’t believe in an SI cover jinx, you might be considering sacrificing a live goat to try to counterbalance this thing. It seems like even those with high expectations for the Indians were basing them on the Tribe flying under the radar and sneaking up on people (as if that strategy has worked better for Cleveland teams).
But here’s the thing: Sports Illustrated’s not crazy. Not this time.
They were in ’87, and later admitted it was basically a gimmick that, like a Dick Cheney hunting trip, backfired comically. This is no gimmick (and, since it’s actually just one of four regional covers, not nearly as loaded with potentially bad juju).
This time around, there’s a caboodle of reasons why this is a totally respectable prediction and not a sick practical joke…many of which Sports Illustrated didn’t even take into account:
1. Persistence pays off
After several years of manic mood swings, the Indians have put together back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in over a decade (which may not sound all that impressive, but the Browns haven’t managed it since The Simpsons came on the air). Champions usually emerge from the teams that continually knock on the door, and the Indians are like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Girl Scouts: they’re still on the front stoop and aren’t going away.
2. The Age of Klubot
By now we’ve all seen the previews for the upcoming Avengers sequel, in which an invincible, emotionless robot called Ultron attempts to destroy the world. Take away the evil and you’ve got Corey Kluber, who, like Robert Downey Jr. & Co., will try to follow up a massive success with another. While the Age of Ultron looks good, odds are better that Klubot will avoid the sequel letdown and once again conquer planet Earth.
3. Centennial celebration
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Cleveland baseball club adopting the “Indians” nickname. And the baseball gods absolutely love centennials.
4. The Tigers are the 2001 Indians
It feels like Detroit has been a roadblock for the Indians since Reconstruction. And while the window of opportunity for the Tigers to win a title is still technically open, it’s only because it’s being propped up by an old phone book and those Matthew McConaughey car commercials. Tribe fans remember this uncomfortable part of the contender bell curve: a creaky team past its prime held together with electrical tape and guys like Marty Cordova and Ellis Burks.
5. Carlos Santana is about to explode
Y’know how Carlos Santana has sort of tiptoed along that line of stardom the last couple of years? This year he’s going to barrel-roll across it like Davy Crockett at the Alamo, turning the “sure-I’ll-take-a-walk” rope-a-dope he’s been pulling on pitchers the last couple of years into an all-out assault on the right-center field wall.
6. Win it for Flip
Al Rosen was one of the greatest players in Tribe history and still evokes memories of one of the franchise’s golden eras. With his recent passing, he’s moved on to a place where he’ll be uniquely positioned to once again lead the Indians to an epic season.
7. The new and improved Progressive Field
While the much-ballyhooed ballpark renovations will generate excitement and a better fan experience, the primary benefit will be more ethereal. It’ll awaken the white magic built into the stadium’s core in the mid-’90s and unleash a sharknado of positive mojo we haven’t seen in years: miracle comebacks, walk-off victories, and…wait for it…sellout crowds. It’ll be like Poltergeist, only in a good way.
When you consider how many key guys had awful years in 2014, it’s ridiculous that the Indians won 85 games. And when you consider that the law of averages demands that at least a couple of those guys will bounce back, hang onto your seats. Among the disabled-list barber-shop quartet of Jason Kipnis, Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, and Ryan Raburn, count on at least two returning to form and giving the Cleveland offense the snap-crackle-pop it desperately needed a year ago.
9. Tito is Walter White without the meth
They’re both bald, they both wear glasses, and they’re both geniuses in their respective fields. Walter White created a suburban drug empire on Breaking Bad, and Terry Francona has turned the perennial 90-loss Indians of 2009-2012 into a title contender. Don’t try to outsmart him – he’s already three steps ahead of you and has changed pitchers twice in the time it took you to read this sentence.
10. Bauer, House, Carrasco, and Salazar
It sounds like a law firm specializing in class-action litigation, but in reality, it’s a Kellogg’s Variety Pack of pitching potential. Plus, each sees himself as this year’s Corey Kluber, and we saw what happened with that wacky dude.
11. Coming attractions
The only thing better than watching a good baseball team is watching a good baseball team that has talented young players waiting in the wings. While guys like Jesus Aguilar, Carlos Moncrief, and – yes, let’s all say it together – Francisco Lindor aren’t expected to contribute much to the big-league club this year, just knowing they’re marinating down in Columbus makes the future look even brighter and everything the Indians accomplish all the more exciting.
12. The Moss Man Prophecies
The Indians have had marginal success with their recent free-agent acquisitions intended to spark the offense, but this time’s different. Brandon Moss may not be Mickey Mantle – nor does he have to be – but he’s exactly what the Indians need to bring their lineup together and help everyone find a niche. Call him the Tribe’s Timofey Mozgov.
13. The Bullpen of the Sierra Madre
Quietly – very quietly – the Indians have constructed one of the best bullpens in all of baseball…if not the best. And they’ve somehow done it with two different designated closers imploding each of the last two years. This may be the stuff of legend here.
14. Dr. Smooth will be bigger than Dr. Pepper
Remember what we talked about way back at No. 1 on this list? Over the past five seasons, Michael Brantley has been more consistent than your mailman, and he’s just beginning to hit his stride. Combine that with reasons No. 5 and 12 and Dr. Smooth is poised to become a veritable phenomenon.
15. A hot April
While the Indians managed to contend for the postseason each of the past two years, they did so despite wobbly starts: 8-13 in 2013 and 11-17 in 2014. Flip those wins and losses and the Tribe may have won back-to-back division titles. They’re due for a microwavable opening month – perhaps not quite along the lines of the 30-15 fever dream to start 2011, but something darned close.
16. If the frickin’ Royals can get there…
Nobody will say it out loud, but watching the Kansas City Royals lope into the seventh game of the World Series last fall like a giraffe in a 5K burned everyone in the Indians’ organization. Not so much because there’s any disdain for the inherently likable Royals, but because they really weren’t all that much better than the Indians…if at all. The Tribe saw what’s possible and desperately want a chance to win the one game K.C. couldn’t. And oh, by the way, speaking of letdowns…
Even if you believe in an SI cover jinx (though Kate Upton seems to have done OK), you gotta admit that Corey Kluber and Michael Brantley ain’t Cory Snyder and Joe Carter. If the season goes off the rails, it won’t be because of Sports Illustrated.
And it isn’t going off the rails.
Photo: Sports Illustrated