Saturday, March 8, 2008

30 Teams in 30 Days: Cleveland Indians




A look back: Cleveland came very close to a World Series last season, finishing one win away after holding a 3-1 lead on Boston in the ALCS. After its young talent had disappointed the year before under the weight of expectations, the Tribe took off, taking the AL Central and defeating the Yankees in the ALDS behind the pitching of C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. The Indians didn’t improve in the offseason, but they’ve got enough to make a strong run.

Positives on the field: Cleveland’s pocket aces of Sabathia and Carmona are the best 1-2 punch in baseball for a rotation. The two combined to win 38 games last year and were very good at keeping runs off the board while doing it. On the other side, Rafael Betancourt was nearly unhittable as the setup man, giving Cleveland a great bridge to Joe Borowski, the AL save leader.

The Indians’ young top of the lineup, Grady Sizemore, continued to show why he is one of the best, and Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez are both excellent hitters. Cleveland is young and very talented, and could be great for years if they can keep it all together.

Positives off the field: The Indians are leaving Winter Haven for Goodyear, Ariz. next season in spring training. It sucks that the Tribe is leaving Florida, but to be honest, Chain of Lakes Park is a dump.

Negatives off the field: Jacobs Field is now Progressive Field. That is lame.

Negatives on the field: How will the Tribe react to the loss at the hands of the Red Sox last year? That was a devastating way to go out, and if it lingers in the back of Cleveland’s mind, it will become more devastating.

As good as Borowski was in the save category, he was hardly dominant. Will he continue to tightrope out of danger? If not, Cleveland may have to make Betancourt the closer and move Masahide Kobayashi (not the hot-dog eating champion) to the setup role.

Outlook: Cleveland is a cut above the bottom tier of the AL Central, but maybe not good enough to match Detroit. But the Indians have great starting pitching and a dependable bullpen outside Borowski, the ingredients you need to have to become a great baseball team. Because of that, I say the Tribe gets its revenge on the Sox.

Projected finish: 2nd in AL Central, defeat Red Sox in ALDS, lose to Tigers in ALCS. Indians opener is March 31 at Progressive Field against Chicago.

Spring base: Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven, Fla. The team plays mainly against the central and western Florida teams. The Indians will move to Arizona in 2009.

Fan of the team?: Check out Let's Go Tribe, the Indians fan community.

Come back tomorrow: The road trip heads north to the Motor City and visits the 2006 AL Champion Detroit Tigers.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy John Anderson.

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