May Reflections on the Cleveland Indians
- Updated: May 8, 2012
You wouldn’t know it by watching SportsCenter, but the Indians have managed to put together a decent stretch of baseball and they find themselves at the top of the Central Division in mid-May. Albeit not with the most outstanding record in the world (as of this writing, the Tribe was just 3 games above .500), but one can’t complain about being in first place even if we are just one month into the season.
The Indians did make some nationwide baseball news last month when they signed veteran outfielder Johnny Damon to a one year contract. In an attempt to add some pop to the corner outfield position, the Tribe signed Damon, a player seemingly no one wanted prior to the start of the season, to a deal worth about $2 million with incentives.
Damon has not played in the field very much over the past two seasons, but the Indians hope to make him basically their everyday left fielder. While ideally, Damon may have preferred to go to a team where he could have been primarily a designated hitter, that is not an option in Cleveland because the team is paying Travis Hafner $13 million this year just to hit.
The Tribe is desperate for some offensive power from one of the corner outfield positions. The team is currently being led on the offensive end by second baseman Jason Kipnis, who leads the team with four homeruns. Kipnis was expected to hit for average, but wasn’t exactly supposed to be the one who shouldered the burden of driving in the bulk of the runs. The reliance on Kipnis as an offensive weapon comes just one season after shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was clearly the team’s best hitter for both power and average.
Teams who need to rely heavily on their middle infielders for their offensive production, don’t tend to be the ones raising the World Series trophy at season’s end. This is not to say that this makes winning impossible, but it certainly doesn’t set the traditional odds in favor of the Wahoos.
While their hitting has been somewhat middle of the road, the team’s pitching has been strong all season. Perhaps the biggest surprise from a starting pitcher has been the performance of Derek Lowe. Lowe was acquired in an off season trade with the Atlanta Braves and wasn’t really thought of to be much more than a decent starter who could eat a lot of innings. Lowe has done much more than pitch a lot of innings. In fact, at this point, he could be poised to accept a spot on the American League All Star team. With a 4-1 record in six starts and a 2.39 ERA, Lowe is currently among the league leaders in various starting pitcher categories.
After being roughed up in his first appearance of the season, closer Chris Perez has also been a bright spot for the Tribe thus far. While other closers around the league have struggle mightily at the start of the season, CP, as he is called by his teammates, has settled down and has now converted 11 of his first 12 save opportunities.
Even with the team’s success, they still rank last in the Majors in attendance. This despite not only playing competitive baseball every night, but also having amazing weather in Northeast Ohio and having strong opponents coming to Progressive Field early in the season. It is apparently going to take a significant amount of time before fans start to believe it is worth their money to travel down to the ballpark to watch a game in person.
Perhaps part of the reason fans are staying away has to do with the fact that the Indians started off fast last year and then completely fell off at the end of the season. If the team stays consistent, fans will start to show up, once they know that the success is here to stay.