By all accounts, the 2010 Cactus League season for the Cleveland Indians was a big ball of warm fuzzies. So much so, that some fans have started throwing the "P-word" around.
P as in "playoffs."
While their spring has certainly been a pleasant surprise, and the the team seems to have a breath of fresh air under the new voice of Manny Acta, the immediate switch in expectations have been startling. Fans were lamenting a season of a hundred-plus losses in January have done an about face to, well, overt fan optimism.
I don't like being a "Debbie Downer," but here is the bucket or two of cold water being poured on you.
There is obviously talent at work here. They will be fun to watch for 162 games, but the Tribe fanbase needs to take the wait-and-see approach.
1. Getting off to a good start. Too often under the Eric Wedge regime they found themselves spending a good percentage of the season climbing out of the early hole they dug themselves into. Luckily, they'll have a good idea of what they can do early on with 13 divisional games in April.
2. Rebound seasons from Grady Sizemore, Jake Westbrook, Travis Hafner and Fausto Carmona. Carmona's and Hafner's springs have been sterling. Westbrook has been solid as usual. But health and psychology are fragile things. And Russell Branyan and Kerry Wood are on the shelf already. Speaking of closers...
3. The Chris Perez audition. The bullpen has been a sore spot for the past two years, so most fans will dread the games from the seventh inning on. Perez has the tools to take the closer mantle from Kerry Wood, but nobody knows about his mental make-up yet. But if he finds it consistantly (and the guys ahead of him do their jobs), then we'll have a good feeling about the bottom line for years to come in the 27th out.
4. The Manny Acta effect. The affable and fedora-stylin' one of a 158-252 record. Is his record a reflection of him or his Nationals? Make no mistake, he does have the Indians playing with a bounce in their steps, so maybe a new voice helps speed the development process.
That's four pretty big elephants that the Tribe needs to tame if they want to shock the world. But it's obvious that they aren't nearly as horrible as they appeared to be. The future is bright.
But the future will be in April 2011.