It is finally here. An exciting off season for the first time in a long time put a big circle on this date for months. The Home Opener. Our Indians holiday every year. (And while I realize it isn’t technically opening day, I’m using the phrase. It’s opening day for the city.)
Every year at this time we have hope for our beloved Indians. Hope that the season won’t be over by mid-July. Hope that the team can compete into September or day we say October. Hope that we will have another “post season to remember” as Tom Hamilton eloquently put it so many years ago.
This year there are reasons for optimism. Yes, there are plenty of concerns and question marks about the 2013 version of the Tribe, but what better day to dwell on the positive than Opening Day in Cleveland?
Top Ten Reasons for Opening Day Optimism-
10- Have you seen the blasts coming off of Mark Reynold’s bat? These are not fly balls that just manage to squeak over a short porch. These have been dead center mammoth blasts. Yes, he is also going to strike out. We knew this. But when he makes contact, that ball is scorched. Consider this- Reynolds has six base hits on the season (.300 average so far) and four of them have been home runs. Another was a double. That’s five out of six hits for extra bases.
He’s fourth in the league in slugging percentage. His seven RBI also put him among the league leaders in that category, and only two players have hit more home runs in the first week of play.
No, he won’t keep this pace up, but he will provide power, and from the right side of the plate which we haven’t seen in a while. Maybe today a lucky fan in the bleachers will get his first home run at home.
9- You also have to like what Michael Brantley has done. It isn’t just the high average (.353), it’s that he is a tough out in the middle of a group of free swingers. Brantley is using the entire field so far, and when he does that he is locked in. It’s like having another lead off man for the bottom half of the order.
8- DEFENSE. We thought that this outfield had the potential to be great. We’ve seen a few hints at how much ground they can cover. Stubbs made a play on a ball in the Toronto series that Choo never gets to. I have a feeling we’ll be saying that all season. Let them play a few more weeks and really get comfortable next to each other. Let them figure out how much space the others need.
What I didn’t realize was the quality of first base play we would get from Nick Swisher. He has made some nice plays that your average converted outfielder doesn’t make. He is no handicap on the defense out there.
7- Carlos Santana. He’s on a hot streak no question about it. But this year there is so much less pressure on Santana. You watch the line-up and see legitimate hitters up and down the order. You don’t watch Cabrera and Santana and then hope the Indians score the next time the top of the order is up in a couple innings. This could be his star season. The year he breaks out. Optimism.
6- No Sabathia. A four game series with the Yankees that doesn’t include CC Sabathia? Sign me up.
5- Speaking of the Yankees, what happened to the super-power? Fortunately for the Indians, they limp into town without their biggest guns healthy. But even when healthy, this team is stocked with players that are on the down side of their career. Andy Pettitte is 39. Ichiro is 38. Youk is 34. Vernon Wells is 35. Derek Jeter is 38. Yankee fans are used to seeing an All-Star team in pinstripes. They still do, except it’s the 2002 All-Star team.
4- Depth. The Indians have some options finally. Aviles and Raburn are legit options to go to late in a game or for a start. And they are versatile. Raburn could play either corner outfield spot, and Aviles could play some left field as well. Both can play multiple infield positions as well. Reynolds can also play first base.
There are also pitching options in Columbus should our pitchers (cough, Myers, cough, Ubaldo) struggle early on. How soon the Indians would be willing to go to those options remains to be seen.
3- It isn’t a bright spot for today necessarily, but Justin Masterson has looked good early. In his first start he wasn’t particularly sharp early on, but some nice defense got him out of jams and in the win column. Yesterday was a big game for Masterson and the Indians. They had a chance to come home with either a 3-3 or 2-4 road trip and Masterson really put the clamps down on the Rays. One of the biggest keys to this season is going to be Masterson or another pitcher becoming that number 1 starter. I feel it needs to be Justin, and he took his first steps toward that beating both reigning Cy Young award winners in his first two starts.
2- Cabrera, Kipnis, Swisher and Stubbs. None of them have really gotten it going offensively yet. And yet the team is 3-3 and fifth in the AL in runs scored. Your 2-4 hitters are batting .132 and you are fifth in the league in scoring runs? That’s a nice problem to have. Players go through dry spells at the plate, everyone knows this. That is why seeing the team compete and score runs while these three are struggling is so encouraging.
1- It’s Opening Day. Who can’t get jazzed about the home opener? Go Tribe!
To celebrate, we’re giving away a Wahoo Red and Blue WFNY shirt. Leave a comment before the end of this game telling us why you are optimistic about the Indians today. We’ll pick a random winner from the entries.