Yes I know the Indians came from behind yesterday afternoon. Yet tonight, the Tribe showed the same fire that they showed against Bannister. I remember when the Indians had their best season in 2007, pitching and defense were the focus. Now it seems everyone is trying to hit for the fences instead of playing smart. Timely hits, constant effort, a fight in their actions have been replaced with a swing and a drive, way back and caught at the warning track. Defenses and pitchers have adjusted well to our offense for the most part. We have been unable to put together two games in a row that has been worth a winning streak.
I am imploring the players to come out with a hunger that needs to spread. It seems like everyone is not loose, smiling, wanting to improve. People like me say it is early. Yet we are playing like we can turn it around on May 1st, not right now.
These series are critical. We need to WANT October! We play like we want it to be Game 162 so we can pack our bags and go home at 81-81 again or worse. Where is the focus?
First the excuse was “its Spring Training.”, then “Its Texas”, then “its early”, then “its too cold”, then the excuses stopped and we split with New York, then it was back to “its too cold.” Now what is the excuse? “Minnesota is supposed to win the division so…” I’m getting tired of defending the excuses. This team must come out and want the next two against Minnesota and have extreme focus and desire to win. Otherwise, we might as well end this season now and forget wanting to accomplish anything that may be positive for this team. This attitude and approach is unacceptable and is why we can never win in this town. I will not accept this approach. We must GET FOCUSED NOW!
A winning attitude is what will fix this season, the clubhouse, the economy and will shock the world! I know it helped the Lake County Captains, an A level affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, on Thursday night when I kept shouting encouragement to that team and helped bring them a win.
Tribe STOP MAKING EXCUSES and play team ball. Seize the opportunities to shine, stop mental mistakes and physical mishaps. Overcome the shortcomings with SMARTBALL that make wise decisions in the moment. Create opportunities and seize the next two games. We need this series!
Well I tried something different after dinner tonight. I invited my kids and wife to each write down where they thought each team would finish in the AL Central just to get differing opinions from my own perhaps.
First up was my daughter. She selected the White Sox for last, the Tigers for fourth, the Royals for third, the Indians for second and the Twins for first. I asked her why, She said the White Sox were too young, the Tigers were better offensively but their pitching was still suspect, the Royals were going to shock the division and do well, the Indians were going to fall just short and the Twins with the best pitching were going to carry the division.
Next was my son. He selected the Tigers for last because they were from a place he doesn’t like and the pitching is terrible. The Royals were going to remain a little better than them. The Twins system makes sense for third, the White Sox with their pitching were better than every team except Cleveland who have a really good heart. The heart is what makes the team great. Their team effort was going to make them the best.
Finally my wife stated the Tigers were going to be in fifth. When asked why, she stated that ESPN, the Magazine put them in the cellar. She was influenced by that and agreed. The White “Sux” as she likes to call them will be fourth. When asked why, she said they are as bad as the Tigers but she thought the Tigers were going to be slightly worse. The Royals were going to be third as a very improved team. The Twins reputation is to always exceed expectations so mark them for second. The Indians were first because they were her favorite team.
Now comes my turn.
This division may be tighter than even the experts think. Each team gives reasons for why they win and why they lose the division. Still I will try to give my best reasons for why they will finish the way they do.
The White Sox will go from 1st to 5th this year in the division. I know I hear all of you saying a lot of things. Remember, this is my opinion. However, I think I have a good argument for this. This team needed 163 games to win the division last year with a lot more talent. This year they lost Crede, Griffey Jr., Nick Swisher, Javier Vazquez and Juan Uribe. Their team is younger and inexperienced. New everyday players include Chris Getz and Josh Fields. The first three starters are solid yet former Indian Bartolo Colon is #4. Bottom line, this team lost too much, too quickly if they plan to compete in 2009.
Friday night, the Indians went out to make the best out of this 2008 season. They had just had Boston celebrating days earlier their opportunity to repeat as Major League Baseball’s World Champions. Going into the Chicago series, I felt confident that we could finish strong, perhaps even over .500. This was pretty impressive seeing that we were at one time the cellar dwellars of the division and the possibility of 100 losses was very real to me.
Friday night, the scoring started off with a bang as “San Ben” Francisco hit a high drive that entered into the first row of the bleachers. The score was 1-0. The scoring continued with a key hit by Josh Barfield scoring Franklin Gutierrez. That made the score 2-0. Homeruns and errors in the bottom of the second inning brought the Pale Hose back however and made the score 4-2 in favor of the White Sox.
The theme of the homerun picked up again for the Tribe as Ryan “I just scored a lot of runs by switching to Garko” hit a solo shot and cut the deficit to 1 making the score 4-3.
Then came the fifth.
The hit parade showed up with singles by Sizemore, Cabrera and “Choooo” with a walk in between to “San Ben” The score was now 5-4. The scoring didn’t stop there for the Tribe as after a base on balls to Jhonny Peralta, Ryan “I just scored a lot of runs by switching to Garko” did just that by hitting a grand slam to center field. It was now 9-4 and things were ooking very well for the Tribe.
One unwritten rule that I learned as a fan was when having the lead, never let the other team score right away after taking the lead in fear of giving the lead right back to the other team. When you have one down, don’t let them back up to pounce on you.
Yet these were the White Sox whose play had given them an opportunity to win the AL Central. Surely, they were not going to give up that easily. Jermaine Dye went deep and hit a two run shot making the softball score Cleveland’s East 9th Street Pub 9 and Chicago’s South Side Tavern 6. It didn’t stop there.
Walks and wild pitches increased Cleveland’s lead to 10-6 after 6 innings. More singles and wild pitches made the score 11-6. If this was what the Pale Hose has to offer for the playoffs in October and I was a Sox fan, then I would buy a broom and be a front-runner for Tampa.
Still, Chicago pride would not let the score stay that way as the White Sox as key hits would help score single runs in the 7th and 8th innings for the Sox making the score 11-8. Finally we brought in our stopper and put an end to the comeback. The final score was 11-8.
So Twins win the division, right? No, not yet! They lost too to the Royals 8-1. Ouch!
What would happen Saturday? Deja vu!
The Twins played before the Pale Hose and lost 4-2 to the Royals. Inside, I wanted the Indians to win. However, I thought the Sox would find a way. I’m glad I was wrong. The Indians picked up where they left off the night before. “CHOOOO” like “San Ben” the night before led off with a homer making the score 1-0. The chess match was matched by the Sox with a homer of their own by Dye making the score 1-1.
Then came the fifth, again.
Like the night before, the Indians had scored six runs. They did it with a series of hits that made me think we would have won at least two more against Boston had we had the key hits that we did this inning. The Indians were in the driver’s seat, 7-1. What made this even nicer was the fact that we didn’t allow them to make a quick comeback in the bottom of the 5th. It was 7-1 and was looking good!
Paul Konerko added a homer in the bottom of the 7th. However, it was a solo shot and really didn’t threaten the Tribe’s efforts for a win making the score 7-2.
The Tribe continued to score when Ryan Garko continued to live up to the nickname I gave him by padding the Indians’ lead with an RBI making the score 8-2
Then the bullpen almost imploded. Mark Shapiro has always said the bullpen needs to be rebuilt. An inning like the bottom of the 8th shows why. With two out and tone on and one run already scored, R. Perez one of the most consistent pitchers gave up a single driving in another run. Bringing in the closer, he too gave up a homer to Paul Konerko om the first pitch scoring himself and J. Thome. It was now 8-6 and looking rather uncomfortable after 8 innings.
The ninth was a special inning for the Tribe as a series of hits from the hit parade added the 4 runs right back to the Indians making the score 12-6. What made it extra special was the Tribe did not give up any more runs. The final 12-6 made the Sox lose again!
Now I really thought it was really going to be tough to sweep. What are the chances of the two teams that are tring to win the AL Central would both be swept? Not likely! However, if the Twins lost, I surely did not want to have to sit through the possibility of causing the Sox to be closer to winning the AL Central.
The Twins won 6-0 and finally helped themselves. So the Twins were 1 game in the lead. Chicago, however also answered the call and won handily 5-1. However, the game started out like the previous two games with a homer from Peralta making the score 1-0. Chigago, this day would not be denied, espicially since Lee was not going to start. Had he started, I believe the Twins, right now would be going to Tampa as AL Central Champs. Chicago scored 3 runs on a homer by Konerko and a series of hits to make the score 3-1. Unlike the previous two days, we never struck back. To make matters worse, the Tribe gave up two more runs on a series of hits making the score 5-1.
Interestingly enough, it was today’s starter that gave up a ton of runs way back on Opening Day. Now when the White Sox needed a win, they got it through Buerhle. Ironically, our starter that day won also today 3-1 leading the Brewers also to a playoff berth in one CC Sabathia.
So, will you all become Tiger fans for one day and cheer against the Pale Hose or want the Twins and Sox to battle it out in a one-game playoff? Either way, the prayers said to God tonight will have to bring out the effort tomorrow and beyond for the Sox and Twins.
God, may the best team truly win the AL Central Division for 2008.
It was truly nice to see the Indians battle their way back to 81-81. It could have been much worse but expected to be much better.
Tonight, I was pleased to see the Twins gain ground on the division race. They won 11-8 while the White Sox lost. My great hope is that the Tribe will do their part to gain ground on the White Sox also next week and hopefully the Twins can end up the division champ. 1.5 games back and counting. I hope the Royals can do to the White Sox what they did to us last weekend.
Hopefully, tonight will be a step of how things will go for the teams in question and Cleveland can make the race closer for both teams. One shall see! Tonight was a very important first step for getting the Twins back into the race.
I am excited to see it come down to the final week and am very proud Cleveland can have a role to be the spoiler.