Well, that post-season didn’t last very long.
In what turned out to be a Wild Card game in which the entire top of the batting order forgot what got them to this point (i.e. hitting!), the Cleveland Indians bowed out of the playoffs, dropping a 4-0 decision to the Tampa Bay Rays. Sadly, this continues a disturbing trend in which Ohio teams can’t get over the hump against Florida teams.
The saying goes it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. Sure, the offensive performance put on by the Tribe was putrid, to put it mildly. But realistically, there are many of us who underestimated how this team was going to perform to even get to this point.
And when you consider that the Indians not only had several of their starters got down to injury, as well as the fact that the back half of their bullpen, Vinne Pestano and Chris Perez, completely imploded, I can’t think of any team in the majors that could have withstood those problems.
So, when I look at the 2013 Indians, I look at a team that succeeded in the one thing they had failed to do since 2007: Keep us going between the end of the Cavs season and the start of Browns training camp. And truth be told, given the way the Browns have been up and down to start their season, the Tribe exceeded my expectation in keeping out collective attention set on them.
Best of all, we, as fans, may actually have something to look forward to in 2014. The starting rotation will remain in tact, with the exception of Ubaldo Jimenez, who is likely to seek greener pastures after his wildly successful second half of the season. Even with that, the Indians have Justin Masterson returning, as well as Cory Kluber, Zach McAllister an Danny Salazar. They may even retain the services of Scott Kazmir, who resurrected his career from the dead.
What does the front office need to focus on? The highest priority has to be both another power hitter, preferably one who’s a little more clutch down the stretch (which this team sadly lacked against the Rays), and a closer.
Perez wasn’t exactly enamored to begin with, and his deterioration as a closer, coupled with his arrest, has flat-out infuriated the fan base. Unless pitching coach Mickey Callaway has another reclamation project in him, Perez is likely going to fade away.
Even with all of this, it’s impressive that we have something to look forward to in the coming year. That didn’t seem to be true in 2007, when the Tribe made it to the ALCS, and in any subsequent year. That truly says something for this ballclub, and perhaps after languishing through some seriously lean time, perhaps we’re finally seeing the dawn of a new era.