Is it spring yet?

February 26th, 2015

ason is almost here.

I’ve endured enough snow. I’ve shivered through cold walks to Dolan. I’ve enjoyed the three “snow days” in the past month, but a man can only sit inside and stare outside for so long.

In just five days, in a place far, far away, baseball will commence.

The Indians begin their spring training schedule against the Reds on Tuesday, March 3 in Goodyear, Arizona. According to Google Maps, Goodyear Ballpark is 2,039 miles away from my dorm room. I’ll still take it as a sign of spring.

Never mind that the Indians don’t open the season at Progressive Field until April 10. Baseball on the horizon is better than nothing.

One of my favorite baseball quotes is by former Indians owner, the late Bill Veeck: “There are only two seasons: winter and baseball.” He couldn’t have been more right.

I can’t wait for winter to give way to baseball season, especially this year. Something special is beginning to take form at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

Despite a slew of injuries, disappointing seasons from key players and tough intradivision rivals such as the Tigers and Royals, the Indians managed to finish the 2014 season at 85-77. Led by veteran manager Terry Francona, the Tribe fell just three games short of a wild card spot.

Thanks to a wealth of young talent, the 2015 season looks even more promising for the Indians. This could be the year that the club breaks through to win the American League Central Division for the first time since 2007.

The Tribe has one of the best arms in baseball as its ace – Corey Kluber. The stoic star known as “Klubot” won the AL Cy Young Award for his breakout 2014 season, as he logged an 18-9 record with a 2.44 ERA and 269 strikeouts.

The rest of the staff looks solid, too. Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Gavin Floyd and Danny Salazar will likely fill the rotation. A number of talented arms are also available in the bullpen, including Kyle Crockett and closer Cody Allen.

The infield looks just as good. Power bat Carlos Santana resides at first, while Lonnie Chisenhall now anchors the hot corner as an increasingly consistent hitter and fielder. Second baseman Jason Kipnis will try to rebound from a disappointing 2014 campaign, but his solid 2012 and 2013 seasons point to a resurgence this year. Jose Ramirez returns as the starter at shortstop after taking over for Asdrubal Cabrera following last season’s All-Star break.

The team’s lone free agent pickup, Brandon Moss, will bolster an already good outfield. Moss will platoon with David Murphy in right field, while Michael Bourn will play center and Michael Brantley will start in left. Bourn is not as speedy as he once was, though his fielding and performance at the plate is above average. Brantley enjoyed a breakout season in 2014, and could be due for another this year.

Prospects abound in the team’s farm system. Francisco Lindor is one of the most promising shortstop prospects in baseball, while Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier will soon be ready to provide depth in the outfield. The Indians are young and dangerous.

Also encouraging is the organization’s dedication to the city.

The Indians are currently upgrading Progressive Field with a state-of-the-art bar in right field, plus a taste of Cleveland with in-stadium restaurants. Melt Bar & Grilled, Barrio and Sweet Moses Soda Fountain & Treat Shop are all coming to the ballpark.

Attendance has slumped in recent years for the Tribe.

Even if stadium improvements don’t bring more fans to the park, a playoff contender will, as many experts are calling the Tribe a force to be reckoned with.

This season promises to be exciting for the MLB as a whole, too. A new energy is palpable throughout the league with new commissioner Rob Manfred at the helm and new changes potentially coming across the table – particularly in regards to “pace of play.”

So hurry up, Old Man Winter. It’s time for baseball.