In This Ohio

On Hope and the Cleveland Indians

Darren C. Demaree
As the “Oh woe is Cleveland (those sad, desperate, fat bastards, coating themselves in lard and tears to stay warm because surely they have not touched each other or cheered their sports teams in years),” articles continue to mount in the national media, namely the dark lord that is ESPN, I feel moved to write about hope or at least the possibility of hope for one of our beloved teams.

Yes, if we ever put down our beer there might be a tear or two swimming desperately around the top of the foam before entering the Gullet Straight, and our anger was far more flow and than ebb in 2010, but this is 2011. Without knowing if the Cavs can right the ship with a possible first pick in the draft or if the new Browns regime can take a fairly talented team and turn the corner, we are left with the 2011 Cleveland Indians to speak of in this second month of the year.

They finished 69-93 last year, and you’re talking about hope?

Yes, I speak of hope.

I speak of a healthy Grady Sizemore; anxious to prove that the money the Indians have invested in him has earned him more than a trade to the Cubs mid-season.

I speak of Carlos Santana playing 140-150 games this season and cementing his status as the best hitting, young catcher the Indians have ever had.

I speak of Fausto Carmona continuing his renewal as he did last year.

I speak of the embarrassment Matt LaPorta suffered through last year, and the ire he garnered from fans and baseball writers alike. Either you’re the man, or you’re not. Last year aside, LaPorta has been the man everywhere he’s played. I think we see a great improvement this year.

I speak of Chris Perez being one of the best closers in baseball in the second half of the season last year. As well as his bullpen mate Rafael Perez pitching in 70 games, and having only a 3.25 ERA.

I speak of Justin Masterson leading the team in strikeouts in his first full season as a starter. In year two, I’d expect his record and ERA to come around as well.

I speak of uber-prospect, and former first round pick 3B Lonnie Chisenhall, arriving in Cleveland at some point this year to take over at the position for the next decade.

I speak of Shin-Soo Choo earning the 100 million dollar deal Scott Boras plans on getting him at some point. He can’t get that deal without having an awesome 2011 and 2012. I always bet on the player set up to get a mega-deal to perform, and then to get his money. Who knows, if enough people head back to the ballpark this year, it might be us paying him in 2013 and 2014.

I speak of Michael Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera hitting #1 and #2 and driving teams crazy with their bunting, speed, and contact hitting. Put them on base in front of Grady and Choo and many runs will be scored.

I speak of Carlos Carrasco, Jeanmar Gomez, and Mitch Talbot. Two of these three pitchers will be good this year. We only need two of them to be good.

I do not speak of Travis Hafner.

I think in 2011 the Indians will surprise everybody and end up at minimum 12-15 games improved. I’m not talking playoffs or 90 wins, but I expect 81-84 wins. A marked improvement doesn’t put a bejeweled ring on anybody’s finger, but with a team as young as this one is, 84 wins quickly becomes 88 or 90 in a season or two. Then, who knows?

The national dirge being played for Cleveland will continue until the Cavs season finishes with them as the worst team in the league. That season will end by April 14th; exactly 13 days after the Indians will begin the revival that will from here on be Cleveland sports.

Pitchers and catchers show up in a little more than two weeks. Here’s hoping…