Would you have assumed the Tribe would be a below .500 team, a cellar dweller at the bottom of the central division? That would have been a fair guess. What happened however was just the opposite.
At the beginning of the 2014 season, what if I told you?
- Justin Masterson, the ace of the pitching staff, would struggle early before being traded away for a minor league outfielder.
- Danny Salazar would fail to reproduce his magical 2013 and be sent down to triple A to find himself.
- Nick Swisher would barely hit his weight before being injured half of the season.
- Carlos Santana would hit below .200 for most of the year.
- Starting shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera would underperform and be traded after the All Star Break.
- The defense as a whole would be last in the league in fielding.
- Newly signed John Axford, brought on to slam the door in 9th innings, would lose his closer role and be traded away.
Would you have assumed the Tribe would be a below .500 team, a cellar dweller at the bottom of the central division? That would have been a fair guess. What happened however was just the opposite. Corey Kluber came out of nowhere to become the most dominant starter in the American League while Michael Brantley put up MVP type numbers, becoming only the 6th player ever with at least a .320 average, 20 homers, 20 steals, 40 doubles, 90 RBIs and 200 hits. The team also received unexpected (and impressive) contributions from young pitchers like Trevor Bauer and TJ House as position players Yan Gomes and Lonnie Chisenhall continued to grow into talented, middle of the line-up pieces.
The year could have been lost before it ever got going but instead Northeast Ohio was provided a full summer’s worth of entertaining baseball as the Tribe competed for a playoff spot into the last week of the season. In addition to the up-and-coming talented pitching staff Cleveland fans have a number of other reasons to look forward to 2015. The Indians core of talented players are all entering their prime and aren’t going anywhere for a while. Kipnis, Brantley, Gomes, Santana, Kluber, Salazar and Bauer all won’t be free agents until at least 2018. Kudos must be given to the front office for having the foresight to lock up these guys at the right times. Spending this money intelligently should free up some space to add another bat or two to the starting line up as well.
It’s just the product on the field that fans can look forward to, though. In early August The Indians announced plans to massively renovate Progressive Field in an attempt to draw larger crowds of families and young professionals. The changes to the stadium will remove a few unused suites (and about 7,000 little-used seats) in exchange for expanded game-viewing areas, a two-story indoor/outdoor bar in right field, an expanded Kids Clubhouse, incorporation of local restaurants and themes into the area and much more. The idea of these revamps is not only to improve the overall ballpark experience but also to make Progressive Field feel more like a community center; a place for the city to come together and celebrate our nation’s past time. Most impressively, the Cleveland Indians will be funding this facelift with private finances and aren’t asking for any additional taxpayer money.
Cleveland may still be a Browns town and LeBron, Kyrie and Kevin Love will certainly bring the sports media world to the city this basketball season. But with the new look of the Indians both on and off the field, the corner of Carnegies and Ontario promises to be a stadium full of excitement in 2015 as well. In Cleveland we’re very good at saying, “There’s always next year.” It looks like this time we can say it with conviction.