Sports scribes looking for word count and justification for their existence often wax breathlessly on about ‘statement games’. Let me add my name to that list.
How important is the first season series with Detroit which begins tonight?
The key to winning the Central Division is playing well against division rivals. Although in a mathematical sense a win is a win is a win and they all count, wins against division opponents produce full 1 game gaps which must be recouped elsewhere but seldom are.
Empirical Fodder: In the past five years the Central Winner had the best division record. Last season Detroit dominated with a 50-22 mark while the Indians played level ball at 36-36. The 14 game differential mirrored the Tribe’s second place finish 15 games behind. In 2007 the Indians went 48-24 to Detroit’s 36-36. The 12 game differential allowed the Indians to win the division by 8 games.
In 2011 Detroit dominated the head-to-head match up with the Indians 12-6, including the last 10 games in August and September, to bury whatever catch up chances the Tribe thought existed. The Indians won 6 of the first 8 games early in the season but so what in the end?
This year the Tribe is 10-7 in the Division, the White Sox 10-10 (2.5 games back) and the Tigers 8-7 (3 games back). The Indians play Detroit 9 times in August and September this year.
So, is May really rutting season? When does testosterone matter?
In today’s Plain Dealer Manny Acta mixed his best rational and realist selves, tried to lower expectations and intensity and set up a landing spot if the series doesn’t go well by saying simply, Just Another Game. But then he added, “If we want to win the division we’re going to have to beat them.” Confused?
Derek Lowe offered a more clear-cut player’s perspective and noted the Indians are “charged up” to show the Tigers they can be had. It all boils down to scent bombs and marking territory, you see.
Which view is better?
In Bull Durham Crash Davis goes to the mound after Nuke LaLoosh shakes off his request for a curveball.
Crash: Why are you shaking me off?
Nuke: I want to throw the heat and announce my presence with authority!
Crash: This guy is a first ball, fastball hitter.
Nuke: He hasn’t seen my heat.
Later, in a deeply philosophical moment:
Crash: You gotta play this game with fear and arrogance.
Nuke: Right. Fear and ignorance.
As a guy, I can say state unequivocally the basic joy of testosterone is more fun for everyone. But my middle aged, realist self also knows it’s only May and it’s the finish that matters.