The Cleveland Indians enter the 2010 season with virtually no expectations on them. The wounds from 2007 are still somewhat fresh if only for the fact that the core is gone; the run is done. The heart of the team that nearly made the playoffs in 2005 and was within one game of their first World Series since ’97 are starting the season playing for new teams (two of which are now with the evil empires of Boston and New York). The end seemed to sneak up on us; but as of last July 31st, the Indians have officially packed it in on 2010. Financially strapped, the Indians were forced to make moves which, in the case of Victor Martinez, broke the heart of many fans (me included). But, fortunately for us, they still have to play the games. The Indians are young, but not that young. They’re bad, but maybe not that bad. They are a team full of question marks. Is Hafner healthy enough for a full season? Can Westbrook and Sizemore rebound from injuries? Are Choo and Cabrera for real? Is Jhonny Peralta still a resident of this planet? Can we FINALLY have a decent bullpen in an even year? I can’t answer all of these questions; quite frankly, I don’t even know if Jhonny knows where he is sometimes, or if he even cares. But I think that some of these questions will be answered pretty early on in the season.
On paper, the 2010 Cleveland Indians do not look like a team built to compete for a pennant and frankly they are not. Three of the five members of their starting rotation break camp on a major league rotation for the first time in their career. The combined innings pitched from these three (346) are only approximately 1 ½ years worth from an average starting pitcher. They start the season with a 22 year old left fielder that has only played one season at AAA or above. Due to the injury to Kerry Wood, Chris Perez will open as their closer; something he has never done before. Lou Marson is not only asked to be an everyday MLB catcher for the first time, but also to manage an inexperienced pitching staff. Finally, four of the nine members of their starting lineup have never opened a major league season on a major league roster.
But maybe they aren’t that bad. They have one of the best players (and possibly the best centerfielder) in all of baseball in Grady Sizemore. They have a right fielder that seems to be the real deal in Shin-Soo Choo. They have two starting pitchers and four relief pitchers that have experienced success (and not that long ago: Carmona, Westbrook, Smith, Wood, Lewis and Rafael Perez). They also are playing with no pressure and for a manager who seems to exude both confidence and excitement. So here are my top five reasons why I think this year’s Cleveland Indians team gives their fans reason to believe.