Cleveland Indians 2012 Outlook: Nemesis, Tigers Be Thy Name

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Cleveland Indians 2012 Outlook: Nemesis, Tigers Be Thy Name
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The Tribe's bats must sizzle against Detroit in 2012.

The first week of September, 2011, Tribe fans packed the Jake for three straight games to watch the Detroit Tigers bring the Cleveland Indians' Cinderella regular-season run to a screeching, crashing halt.

The Indians threw Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Fausto Carmona at the Tigers, but to no avail—Detroit swept Cleveland. By the time Detroit swept Cleveland in another three-game series at Comerica Park at the end of the month, all had been decided.

After last season, no Wahoo Warrior will underestimate Detroit in 2012. The Tribe's main competition in the AL Central Division came within two games of the World Series last season and added the 2012 free-agency class' most high-profile prize: Prince Fielder.

Additionally, Chicago and Minnesota will certainly enjoy healthier rosters in 2012, as both clubs saw their 2011 seasons marred by injury. 

If the Cleveland Indians participate in the 2012 postseason, they will have undoubtedly bested their rivals from "that state up north." Can the Indians negate Detroit's profligate spending through sound management and small ball?

Tigers owner and Little Caesar's founder Mike Ilitch has made a point of demonstrating his personal and financial commitment to adding a World Series title to his four Stanley Cup rings.

Fielder provided Tigers fans with the red meat—read, instant gratification—they sought after a stinging defeat at the hands of the Texas Rangers in the ALCS. The Prince could deliver Detroiters their first World Series title since 1984.

 

Can the Indians top the Tigers and win the AL Central?

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Back in the "Fortress of Frugality," formerly known as Jacobs Field, the Dolan family, GM Chris Antonetti, President Mark Shapiro and the gang retaliated with the only weapon on which they can rely in a small market—pitching.

To bolster their pitching arsenal, the Tribe acquired the services of veteran professional Derek Lowe as well as the new Anglophonic ambassador to the Tribe's Spanish speakers, control-man Kevin Slowey. At first base, the Indians required an everyday player hitting above the Mendoza Line. Enter Casey Kotchman, a tested career .268 hitter.

While Tribe fans may not enjoy the big-splash, SportsCenter-worthy acquisitions of big-market clubs, they can rest assured knowing their organization has resurrected itself several times in the last decade and has learned a thing or two about developing a baseball team from the ground up.

I was in my freshman year of college in 2007, the last time the Tribe played in the postseason. Before the Red Sox broke our hearts in the ALCS, the Indians eliminated the New York Yankees.

Surrounded by Yankees fans, I relished in posting one particular note on my neighbor's door. It outlined exactly how much the $200 million Yankees organization had shelled out for each hit, each out, each run. Obviously, I taunted him with the fractional price the $61 million the Indians had paid. 

Before long, CC Sabathia was pitching for the Yankees against Cliff Lee and the Phillies in the World Series while the Indians sat at home. As an Indians fan, you really have to pick your windows for talking trash.

Now the Indians face a hegemonic power who threatens not just to pilfer the All-Star lineup we perennially rebuild, but to dominate our division and preclude us from playoff contention for the foreseeable future.

Will the 2012 Indians and their fans rise to meet the challenge? 

You can follow Brian on Twitter @StepanekButton 

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