July Reflections on the Cleveland Indians

What makes this year’s version of the Cleveland Indians different from those the past few years? They seem to have more staying power. Well, that remains to be seen, but at least they have the power to come back after getting knocked down.

During the 2011 and 2012 seasons, the Indians shot out of the gate and had everyone raving that they were going to run away with the division. Everyone in Cleveland that is. In each year, this was followed by a second half of the season collapse, Chris Perez rants about how the fans don’t appreciate the team and questions about whether the manager was going to get fired or not. (Although Chris Perez couldn’t help but get his name in the news when marijuana was mailed to his house in his dog’s name while he was on the DL. At least he wasn’t using HGH.)

Thus far, this season has been one of ups and downs, but also one where no one is freaking out or going crazy about the records. Fans, and the front office for that matter, seem to have reserved themselves to overreacting about their high rank in the standings until at least after the All Star Break this year.

As of this writing, the Indians stand at 45-39, just one half game behind the Detroit Tigers for first place in the American League Central Division. There is no doubt that the team has been led by second baseman Jason Kipnis. Kipnis leads the team in batting average (.301), RBI (54), runs (47) and OPS (.925). Kipnis started hot last year, but hit a major cool off in the second half of the season. There was some worry during the first few weeks of the season as Kipnis came out of the gate hitting around the Mendoza line. Kipnis broke out of his slump and was awarded for his efforts by garnering the American League Player of the Month Award for June.

In addition to his Player of the Month Award, Kipnis was also awarded for his performance with his first selection to the mid-summer classic in New York. Joining Kipnis at the Met’s home ballpark will be starter Justin Masterson who has been consistently strong all season. While he hasn’t been lights out, he has been consistent. He currently has a 10-7 record with a 3.78 ERA and has compiled 131 strikeouts. The right hander is considered the ace of the Indians pitching staff and has benefited from garnering much more run support this year than he received at any point last season.

While the Tribe was making headlines at the beginning of the season because they ranked last in the league in attendance, the team has created a ground swell in Northeast Ohio. Sports talk radio in Cleveland has gone from passionate fans complaining that no one is going to the games to people calling upset because there were only singles and standing room only tickets available to their game of choice. Based on this information, the faster the Indians learn they can’t make everyone happy all of the time, the better of they will be.

The Indians had a chance to make a move up in the standings when they hosted the Tigers for a weekend series during on the first weekend in July. It did not, however, turn out how the Tribe hoped. While they did score some runs, the potent Detroit offense took the series by doing what they do best and mashing the ball. In two of the Tribe’s losses to the Motor City Kitties, the team hit two homeruns, which is usually a telltale sign for victory, but couldn’t stave off the Tigers. Even the games they won against the Tigers were nail biters as they attempted to give the game away in the latter innings.

If the Tribe is able to stay competitive and finish somewhere around .500 by the end of the season, the season will have to be considered a success. As long as they are in the discussion in September, it will be a good step forward for the Tribe who has pretty much an entirely new nucleus this year.

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