If someone told you, coming into 2011, that the Cleveland Indians would be two games out of first place midway through August and start the season with an MLB-best 30-15 record, you might have thought:
A) Charlie Sheen was remaking the Major League film.
D) This was some sick joke.
E) Some wacky combination that included all of the above.
The city has had a certain '90s vibe since the season started, despite a roster full of unproven prospects, unproven pitchers, an unproven manager and a team widely speculated to be the worst on paper coming into the season. I'm pretty sure we've all read this chapter on the Indians before, haven't we?
The team has had more magic than any one of the 30 Harry Potter flicks, and it feels like another special summer in the ballpark formerly known as "The Jake."
They’ve made us laugh (Fukudome got hit by a pitch, with the bases loaded, in the 14th inning??), they’ve made us cry (brutal bullpen meltdowns in Boston/Texas, all in one week; being Grady Sizemore-less for "Grady’s Ladies" must have been rather tragic), they’ve made us smile (13 last-at-bat wins) and they’ve made us scratch our heads (trading for a Cy Young-caliber pitcher only a few years after giving two away).
They’ve surely given us hope and made us think, "What if?" (…World Series?...)
Well, here we are, midway through August, and there the Indians are, second in the standings on the heels of the Tigers. Could this be a repeat of 2007? A premature rise to the top? Or simply a mirage a la 2005, with a crash-and-burn in the coming weeks of the season to their divisional foes?
August and September will tell a lot about the Indians aspirations for not just this year but beyond. After all, as the 2007 playoff run proved, a lot of good fortune can go wrong rapidly.
Here are the five best questions and five hopeful answers that are key for the Windians to turn on the engine and finish what they started in the AL Central.