On a cool-yet-pleasant September evening, AL Comeback-Player of the Year candidate Scott Kazmir tossed seven-plus innings of dominant baseball, and the Indians remained in the driver’s seat of their playoff fate as they cruised past the hapless Astros 4-1. The Tribe, which had scored only 4 runs in the first two games of this series, struck quickly in this one; in the first inning, Michael Brantley lashed a 2-run home run off of Houston starter Paul Clemens and the Indians cruised to an easy victory behind the spectacular Scott Kazmir.
Joe Smith allowed a solo home run to Chris Carter (the really poor man’s Mark Reynolds) in the 9th inning, but this was a game mostly devoid of drama. I caught this game in person with my good friend Bob and his college roommate, Tim, and I honestly believe we spent more time talking about various topics (ranging from the Trent Richardson debacle to Tim Lincecum’s 148-pitch no-hitter in July) than watching the game. That doesn’t mean it was a bad game or that it was impossible to enjoy, it just means that the game wasn’t really ever in doubt after the 1st inning.
But hey, a win is a win is a win, right? Especially when your team controls their own postseason fate on the eve of the Autumnal season. Let’s look at some of the key subplots of this game:
AL Comeback Player of the Year?
If the Indians make the playoffs, it isn’t just Terry Francona who might find themselves with some hardware. Kazmir, who was out of baseball and pitching in the Independent League last year, picked up his 9th win on the season, striking out 10 Astros over 7 dominant innings. With the win, Kazmir’s ERA dipped to 4.14, which is awfully respectable when you consider where he was last year and the expectations many had for him coming into Spring Training. It’s truly been a pleasure to watch Scott pitch every fifth day, and I think he’s definitely deserving of the Comeback Player honors.
The only thing that could derail Kazmir’s chances at the award would be Mariano Rivera, who is definitely the sentimental favorite as 2013 marked his farewell tour from baseball after returning from an ACL tear suffered in 2012. I think an Indians playoff berth would outweigh sentimentality, but it’s hard to predict these things. Rivera did win the All-Star game MVP, after all (though it is true that no one else really deserved it).
Is Asdrubal the Key to Success?
Though his time in Cleveland is probably limited (I’d be personally shocked if Cabrera isn’t a St. Louis Cardinal next season), and though he is mired in the worst season of his career, Asdrubal Cabrera may hold the key for the Indians hopes in October.
When I was at the game on Friday with fellow IPL writer Vern Morrison, we noted a fact on the scoreboard that the Indians were 38-10 when Asdrubal scored at least one run. After tonight, that makes them 47-60 in games that Asdrubal did NOT score a run, which is a pretty stark difference to say the least. My point here is: if Asdrubal can suddenly catch a bit of fire here at the end of the season and lead this team into October, the numbers suggest the Indians are a significantly more dangerous team.
I say this because Asdrubal went 3-4 tonight, and we can only hope this finally sparks his bat… if it does, the timing simply could not be better.
A Note About Attendance
I should probably put this subsection in a post all by itself, but frankly I’m tired of talking about attendance, so I’ll keep it short and put it here. While I’ve been very vocal on Twitter about my displeasure with fans not showing up, I want to take just a moment to chastise the TEAM for their perplexing contribution to the attendance problem.
First of all, have you seen the Indians Seating and Pricing guide? Check it out here. I’m a pretty smart guy, but this page gives me a headache… it’s nearly impossible to know what any seat costs on any given day. So, one possible reason fans have stayed away is because figuring out what tickets to buy and what they cost is about as difficult as translating Ancient Greek for many fans… but that’s not the biggest reason.
Look at those prices! Seriously, look at them! The only reasonably-priced ticket is the Upper Bleachers for $10.00; nearly everything else is straight-up ridiculous.
$18.00 for Upper Outfield Reserve? You know, those seats way up in the right field corner and up in right field (where no one ever sits because the team can’t draw enough people)… those cost eighteen-friggin-dollars?! I’m only 26 and I remember when I’d sneak down to the ballpark in high school and grab those same seats for $6.00. You’re telling me the cost of inflation between 2005 and 2013 has tripled the value of those tickets? Right.
But the price insanity doesn’t stop there. Lower Box seats (from first/third base to the foul pole on either side) are $56 for Sunday’s Game. Fifty-six dollars?! Are you bleepin’ me? (To quote Hawk Harrelson). Again, it was only a few years ago when those tickets were $20 face value. Again, I understand inflation happens, but do you really expect anyone to pay to see the Indians play the Astros for $56 just to sit even with Drew Stubbs out in Right Field? It’s ludicrous.
If the Indians want to bring fans out to the ballpark, they need to make it affordable to do so. I have a very deep and visceral connection with this team because even when I was broke and the team was horrible (2003-2004) I could still string together a few dollars to go down to the park on a whim. Now with dynamic pricing and walk-up mark-ups, I can’t do that because I have no idea what a ticket is going to cost on any given day.
So while it’s easy to blame the fans for not coming out, I think the team deserves its fair share of blame for their ridiculously complicated and overly expensive ticketing system. Those tickets in far right field should cost no more than $10 any day of the week. The bleachers should never exceed $12 (you can go tomorrow for $21! Or Wednesday for an inexplicable $24!).
One more note on the indefensibly ludicrous pricing system: A fan can choose to sit in the Field Box tomorrow for $56 (Please don’t), or the same fan can spend $10 more dollars and sit in the Outfield Club seats (basically one level up) and get unlimited food and drink during the game. HOW DOES THIS MAKE ANY SENSE?
…That’s all. Thank you for bearing with me for this rant.
Both the Rays and Rangers won their respective games on Saturday night, so the Indians maintain their half-game hold on the second wild card spot. Meanwhile, the White Sox went into the bottom of the 9th in Detroit with a 6-run lead and promptly allowed 6 runs to the Tigers, and are currently in extras.
The Indians will take the field again looking to put some distance between themselves and the Rangers (or take over the top wild-card spot from the Rays) at 1:05pm tomorrow. Corey Kluber will go against Eric Bedard as the Indians go for the sweep.