MLB: Validating Optimism in Cleveland

Jeffrey SantonAnalyst IApril 11, 2008

Baseball has begun and the Cleveland Indians are nine games into the summer marathon that is Major league baseball's regular season.

The Tribe was one win short of a trip to the world series last year, and the bar has been set pretty high for the young club.  Anything short of a World Series would be considered a failure. 

Many things went right last year for the Cleveland Indians to accomplish what they did. In the city of Cleveland fans are generally happy with the last year, but now a World Series Championship is where the bar is sitting and it's been said many things would need to happen for Cleveland to get back into October.                           

First off, the Indians pitching—which was the Tribes strength last year—would have to repeat a year of excellence. A few factors played a major role in the pitching staff's success.                                                                                                             

While many would point to C.C. Sabathia's Cy Young season, the everyday tribe fan knows that a few of the tribes unknown's showed up. Fausto Carmona came back from national scrutiny after a string of blown saves after the tribes closer Bob Wickman was traded away in a season that ended with the tribe out of contention.

Carmona returned last year in the starting rotation and finished in the top five for the coveted Cy Young with a 19-8 record, 3.06 ERA, and 137 strike outs to 61 walks.                                                                                                                  

Boston fan's became some of Carmona's biggest fans paying homage to his "Wicked Slida" as pointed out by Cleveland's number one sports station AM 850 WKNR on-air personalities who have a cult like following around the city.               

Other arms from the Tribe stepped up big last year, both starters and relievers alike, and had years that even the most optimistic fan would be surprised by. 

Both Rafael Perez, and Rafael Betancourt were lights out all season out of the pen, and even the unknown Jensen Lewis came to be a valuable piece of the pen coming on late spelling the Rafael's in a season in which they were asked to throw a lot of innings.

Joe Borowski, who served as the Tribe's closer in 2007, made Cleveland fan's nervous with his uncanny ability to make every appearance interesting similarly to the Indians last closer Bob Wickman, but the bottom line was he was getting the job done. 

Starter Paul Byrd also provided a solid season, while not dominating, he gave the Tribe a good chance at wins every time he toed the rubber.                            

While many people have the Indians as the World Series favorites this year, many of the things that came together last year are unlikely to all happen again the same way this year, especially with production from the mound.

Many question whether Byrd can have another solid season and if you have even drove through Cleveland you can see the Tribes fans continually growing grey hairs with Joe Borowski closing games.

Here's the good news for Cleveland. Things don't have to be like last year.             

If Joe Borowski doesn't work Rafael Betancourt will be waiting with a third closer option of Kobayashi behind him. Paul Byrd may not bring the game he did last year either but Cliff Lee who was injured and a non-factor in the Indians success last year is off to a solid start. 

Hall of fame radio personality Greg Brinda has been proclaiming a 16 win season for Lee this year since spring training. Jake Westbrook is looking to be a huge factor in the rotation in this young season as well.

The Indians are also loaded with arms in their farm system. If an injury or less then average play comes about, options are available.                                                  The

Cleveland Indians can also expect a few sticks to show up this year that many feel didn't play up to their potential last year. Most notably Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore. 

So in closing, while we are only nine games into this young season, the Cleveland Indians are going to have to wait and see which player's are going to show up this year to help the Indians get to where they want to be.

While your everyday pessimist can "glass half empty" you to death with concerns of Travis Hafner, Paul Byrd, and Joe Borowski, the optimist can fire right back with a Cliff Lee, Kobayoshi, and possibly by the all-star break Ben Francisco to help with a platoon system that thus far looks to be less then desirable.  

Options, options, options!!

The Tribe is loaded with them. If the standard in Cleveland is a World Series this year and certain guys aren't playing up to it, somebody is going to be nipping at their heels starving for the chance to bring the playoff caliber play desired at that position to return deep into the playoffs, and maybe even finally reach the plateau that the city of Cleveland has been starving to achieve since 1964, a World Champion.