Cleveland Indians Trying to Bring Back 2007 Glory

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It’s come to this, fellow Cleveland Indians fans; we’re getting hyped up in February for a team trying to return to its latest glory year. Maybe I would be less skeptical if that year were a World Series Championship, or the last year of an extended run of playoff appearances, but 2007 was the lone Tribe playoff appearance smack dab in the middle of 10 years of torture that falls somewhere between “We had a solid season and got unlucky” and “Jeez, just call the rookie up already, we’re not going to win his age in games.”

Don’t get me wrong, that 2007 team was a dream to watch. It wasn’t as fun as those mid-90s teams, but I refuse to get caught up in THAT conversation again. That 1995 was 18 years ago, and I have a strict rule that anytime a person born in a sports year is old enough to stare at without being labeled a creeper, it’s time to hang up the I wishes and what ifs.

So, that 2007 team led by Victor Martinez and Grady Sizemore is the only successful year that adheres to my rule. Just in case you’re not a Baseball-Reference freak like someone I know (me), let’s review that Indians squad.

C ~ Victor Martinez
1B ~ Ryan Garko
2B ~ Josh Barfield
SS ~ Jhonny Peralta
3B ~ Casey Blake
LF ~ Jason Michaels
CF ~ Grady Sizemore
RF ~ Trot Nixon
DH ~ Travis Hafner
SP ~ Cliff Lee
SP ~ CC Sabathia
SP ~ Roberto Hernandez
SP ~ Jake Westbrook
SP ~ Paul Byrd
RP ~ Rafael Betancourt
RP ~ Rafael Perez
RP ~ Joe Borowski

 

It’s been a long time since the 2007 season (specifically, five years. The parenthesis are because I had to get out my calculator), so I really haven’t looked at the entirety of that roster in quite some time. Out of our starting nine, Martinez and Peralta ended up legitimate stars. (I would have lost money on Jhonny. He’s somehow considered a star  even though he’s only had one exciting season since 2008). The rest of that team was pretty rag-tag. No offense to Sizemore or Hafner intended, but there hasn’t been enough healthy evidence since then to prove that they were anything other than guys who caught lightning in a bottle for a couple of seasons, but couldn’t sustain that success.

So, that’s two guys out of nine that have solidly contributed to successful seasons before 2007 and after. The rest? Well…

We all love Casey Blake, but remember that he averaged 24 plate appearances during his first six years of getting cups of coffee in the Bigs with Toronto, Minnesota and Baltimore. His first full season wasn’t until 2003 with the Indians, when he was 29. He was mostly mediocre, but had a couple solid seasons with the Tribe, then went on to average .257 with the Los Angeles Dodgers until he retired after 2011.

As for Barfield, Michaels, Nixon and Garko, the most memorable thing that comes to my mind was finding different ways to incorporate barf and trots into bad digestive system jokes during losses.

Now, Lee, Sabathia, Hernandez (remember when Fausto was Fausto and he was good?), Westbrook and Byrd? Then Raffy Left and Raffy Right setting up Borowski to tally 45 saves? Now THAT was fun to watch.

But all that fun only amounted to an American League Championship Series loss to the Boston Red Sox. Sure, 96 wins and a series win against the hated New York Yankees, but deep down, I’m not happy unless there’s a ring on it.

The (so far) 2013 Cleveland Indians? Let’s have a looksy, shall we?

C ~ Carlos Santana
1B ~ Mark Reynolds
2B ~ Jason Kipnis
SS ~ Asdrubal Cabrera
3B ~ Lonnie Chisenhall
LF ~ Michael Brantley
CF ~ Drew Stubbs
RF ~ Nick Swisher
DH ~ Mystery Men
SP ~ Justin Masterson
SP ~ Ubaldo Jimenez
SP ~ Brett Myers
SP ~ Zach McAllister
SP ~ Carlos Carrasco
RP ~ Joe Smith
RP ~ Vinnie Pestano
RP ~ Chris Perez

 

In order to win 90+ games, a team really needs a star or two. That 2007 team had the ghosts of Grady and Pronk to get fans to the ballpark and V-Mart to produce the runs that let that unbelievably good pitching staff do its work. I can’t find that guy on the 2013 Indians.

I want the star to be Asdrubal Cabrera, and I think there’s a chance, but aside from a solid career batting average, Cabrera has been pretty mediocre. It bugs me to face the facts on Asdrubal, but I need my star to be better than a six-year peak of 25 HR and 92 RBI. Toss in the fact that he looked like Miguel Cabrera when he got to Spring Training last season and played like he was being bothered for most of the season, and I’m not very keen on dropping the pressure of having to be the guy on him.

Can it be one of the young guys I love? Kipnis, Brantley or Chisenhall? I hope so, but it’ll probably have to be all three of them if it’s going to be one of them. Kipnis has pop and speed, but Brantley is the guy who doesn’t strike out and has potential to hit .300. And I’ve been crushing on Chisenhall since before I wrote for More Than a Fan, but the kid has to show me something before I start stalking him.

Could it be Nick Swisher? Sure. I mean, Swisher actually could be the guy. But, no matter how much I’ll be rooting for him, he’s 32 and probably isn’t going to spend the next four years improving. That leaves Carlos Santana, Mark Reynolds, Drew Stubbs or whoever gets signed to an incentive laden contract to DH. Sigh… let’s just move on.

I don’t think we found a guy to be the guy. But even if you think we have a guy and that I’m being too hard on the current squad, I really don’t think one is enough. No matter how many times I drop rag-tag on that 2007 lineup, they had two things the current Indians just don’t (seem to) have; the innate ability to make something happen in clutch situations and a pitching staff that I’d put against any team in the league.

The 2013 Indians returning starter with the most 2012 wins is Justin Masterson. He won 11 games last season. Jimenez won nine games, McAllister won six. (It’s pretty bad news when I have to spell out the numbers instead of using the digits) That’s the top three returning starters on the Opening Day rotation with 26 total wins. In case you were wondering, the top three returning starters in 2007 – Westbrook, Lee and Sabathia – combined to win 41 games in 2006. That’s… umm… quite a difference.

I know that this all sounds pretty depressing, but it’s not. It’s just that this team isn’t quite good enough for the playoffs right now unless that Santana gets more consistent, that group of young guys all break out together and Ubaldo figures out a way to throw more than one strike in a row.

There’s potential in Cleveland, especially given how the team is stacked with guys under 27-years old, but crying 90+ wins and the playoffs in 2013 is premature enough that there’s probably an embarrassing medication you can take to calm down a bit.

Don’t worry, it happens to all fans.

(No it doesn’t)

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Josh was born in Cleveland, lives in Medina, and talks too much. Publisher of the More Than a Fan Digital Network and Host of the More Than a Fan Podcast, he's basically lucky to still be married.