We’re talkin' baseball, Indians baseball, talkin’ Tribe! It’s March 6 and Opening Day is still a month away, but baseball is alive and well in the hearts and minds of the Tribe faithful.
By now, everyone knows last season’s course of events by heart and there’s no point in dwelling on what could have been. The 2011 Cleveland Indians were an overachieving team loaded with potential and they put the baseball world on notice that they’re ready to compete.
Unfortunately for the upstart Tribe, the cards of baseball economics are still stacked in their disfavor. As the Cleveland front office remained passive and indecisive on serious trade talks and were incapable of signing a major league free agent, the Detroit Tigers kept busy improving an already superior ball club. After Albert Pujols signed in Los Angeles, Detroit all but cleared the pool in one giant splash by signing Prince Fielder to a nine year/$214 million contract.
The rival Tigers will be a formidable foe to overcome in 2012, but it will be the only way the Indians make the postseason. Two wild-card teams, one playoff game or not (what a terrible format!), the Tribe isn’t getting either of those two spots. Not with the Rangers, Angels, Yankees, Red Sox and Rays all potentially fighting it out until season’s end.
Objectively, Cleveland might be the sixth best team in the American League talent-wise, and that’s giving them a slight nod over the Rays. It’s okay, I won’t expect much backlash from the non-existent Tampa/St. Petersburg fanbase.
Here are 10 chest-thumping predictions that could lead to Cleveland “pickling the beast” by overtaking Detroit for the AL Central title in 2012.