A crazy thought popped into my head while I was sitting in my seat before first pitch at the Cleveland Indians’ home opener on Monday, April 8.
What if the Indians make the playoffs?
That thought did not cross my mind during the Tribe’s home opener just one year before. The Indians struggled mightily in 2012, especially in the latter half of the season, finishing with a 68-94 record.
But a more positive atmosphere surrounded the 41,567 faithful before the Tribe’s return to Progressive Field this April.
The Indians had a new manager and proven winner in the clubhouse: Terry “Tito” Francona. The two-time World Series champion, both won as the manager of the Boston Red Sox, has ushered in a sense of excitement to a club that was struggling to succeed in a small-market.
Francona, in conjunction with Indians general manager Chris Antonetti also brought a few highly coveted free agents to Cleveland, the biggest of those being Nick Swisher.
The Tribe splurged on a four-year, $56 million deal with Swisher last December. Since the signing, the 32-year-old has provided the spark the Tribe needed to be a contender. Swisher energized the team, bringing a boyish energy and passion for “Brohio.”
Also signing were Michael Bourn and Ryan Raburn. Drew Stubbs, Yan Gomes and Trevor Bauer were all acquired in trades.
Even after all the exciting moves, most would have called me crazy for even considering the idea of an Indians playoff appearance in 2013. Few foresaw a 92-70 record and a Wild Card spot.
The Tribe’s success this season is bordering on the miraculous. This team was supposed to be a year or two away. But baseball is a funny game.
As I write this column on Tuesday evening, I have no way of knowing what happened on Wednesday at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. The Indians might have lost and dashed the city’s newborn hopes of a deep postseason run. Or perhaps the Tribe beat the Tampa Bay Rays and have moved onto the Division Series. You never know what will happen in October.
Win or lose on Wednesday, the future is bright for the Indians. The team has two outstanding starters in Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson, plus a young stable of pitchers, including Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. The bullpen has held together despite the struggles of Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano. And the batting order is loaded from start to finish.
I certainly can’t predict what this October holds for the Tribe. But I’ve invested in this team, and I’m enjoying the ride. And I hope you do, too.