My wife and I have spent the past two weeks moving into our new apartment. Let me just say that it’s a fat-cat’s penthouse compared to where we were in the past few years, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we think it’s pretty freaking awesome. It has an amazing view of suburban Toronto, which after living in two places that were four walls and little else, it can be breathtaking, if not even a little overwhelming. It’s amazing how I can stare off from our balcony into an infinite horizon of blue sky; looking down at those who can’t see how awesome it can be up here.
Our Indians can relate: With a current two-game lead on the AL Central, life on top is glorious.
Sure, we’ve been here before. No one will blame anyone for having that feeling that it might be tenuous at best; the dreadful waiting on the baseball deities as they scheme a brutal hailstorm of other shoes dropping from the sky. But doesn’t it feel different this time? I probably said this last year. And the year before that. But really, doesn’t it?
What the Indians have done to prior Cy Young winners, including Felix Hernandez yesterday (battering the elite club to the tune of 1-7 with a collective ERA of 8.21), is nothing short of amazing. They have pitching that, so far, has completely exceeded expectations. The big kicker is the chance that Ubaldo Jimenez might have changed the burnt-out light bulb so it can flick on in that cranium of his. That is so exciting to think about.
Could it be Mickey Callaway has discovered the broken link that previous pitching coaches, even Jimenez’ coaches in Colorado, couldn’t? I’m trying not to get everyone’s hopes up, but something is working. Finally. If Ubaldo can keep his confidence up, it can only help a rotation that is better than advertised as in the winter and spring.
The stars of week are Justin Masterson and Jason Kipnis. Masterson continued his string of goose eggs in shutting down both the Yankees and Mariners, while Kipnis is scorching hot in May, off-setting and protecting a cooled-off Carlos Santana and Mark Reynolds.
It’s not just the (walk-off) homers. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen batters one through nine hustle and battle in every at-bat. These are hallmarks of Terry Francona. His players believe in him far more than they had ever believed in the likes of Eric Wedge (whose familiar managerial shortcomings were on full display over the weekend) and Manny Acta. Francona’s World Series rings weren’t simply bought by having big-named players. It only took nearly two months to see how he pays attention and teaches the little things. His troops push with the extra effort. His players reap the rewards.
Chris Perez has a bad day and gives up two laser-shots. No problem! Just have the first three guys get on base and send the folks home happy because of hustle. I love that word when it’s our boys being the ones taking nothing for granted for a change.
So, let’s all enjoy the view, because it’s always better to be on top. And this past week seems to be the textbook example of the Tribe starting to understand what it takes to stay there.