It's Tribe Time Now

It seems whenever this time of year rolls around, many of us get all teary-eyed and emotional in anticipation of the return of professional baseball. Often, we’ve been forced to settle for the Indians’ brand instead. In fact, often times, it hasn’t exactly been a pretty sight to behold.

Maybe it’s because this winter has been so brutal. I mean, take your pick: snow, cold, Miley Cyrus – it’s been nasty no matter which way you turn. And, as anyone who has read my column on a regular basis is well aware, I’m usually somewhat cynical when it comes to Cleveland sports teams. But, my need for intense psychotherapy aside, I’m really quite pumped about the upcoming baseball season.

Last year, the Tribe needed many things to go right for them to make the playoffs, including a soft September schedule, and everything went almost perfectly. Well, until the playoff game. But the point is, we made the playoffs, and there are a number of reasons to optimistically think we can do the same thing – only better – in 2014.

Here’s what needs to go right for the Indians in 2014:

1. Stay healthy. The most promising of seasons can go down in flames if some key personnel get hurt. As is the case with most teams, the Indians aren’t deep enough to take many hits to the roster.

2. Danny Salazar needs to be a No. 1 starter. The Indians may finally have that Justin Verlander-type guy who is dominant all the time. He has the capability; he needs to do it.

3. Justin Masterson is playing for a free-agent contract this year; chances are he won’t be here in 2015. Regardless, I expect him to put up some big numbers. Players don’t like to hear it, but the fact is that many perform at their best when playing for their next contract, and then once they do sign it, well ... let’s just say it’s generally not good.

4. Speaking of which, Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher signed big contracts with the Indians last winter and had sub-par seasons after joining the Tribe. Assuming their currency-induced hangovers have passed, just getting "average" years out of them will be a big boost.

5. Carlos Santana makes the switch – successfully – to third base. Sorry, I just don’t see it in Lonnie Chisenhall.

6. The bullpen they assemble is at least competent. Almost everything they did with the bullpen went wrong last year, and the good news is that most of the culprits from last year’s mess are gone. The bullpen, by default, almost has to be better.

I don’t expect the Tigers to be as good this year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll leap-frog past them. Yes, we only finished a game behind them, but remember, they owned us last year, so the first thing we have to do this year when we play them is to change the mentality. In other words, we have to push them around a bit if we expect to pass them.

On the other hand, I expect Kansas City to give the Indians all they can handle this year. Barring injuries, I expect Kansas City to be a playoff team, and I wouldn’t be surprised if three teams from our division made it to the post-season.

Regardless, it should make for a fun year. As I said, it’s Tribe time now!

Jeff Bing

Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!

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Volume 6, Issue 6, Posted 9:16 AM, 03.18.2014