Sure, it might have been delayed, and it may have rained, and the temperature may have suddenly dropped 20 degrees and the wind may have turned bone-chilling… Opening Day was awesome and there’s nothing you can say to convince me otherwise.
With the rain delay, many of us watching at home got a chance to catch the entire Jason Kipnis press conference (featuring Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes!). While the conference itself was standard fare with both sides saying all the right things, one thing did stand out to me. When given a chance to speak, Michael Brantley talked about how this team has fun and other teams notice — even outing A’s utilityman Nick Punto as one of the jealous peasants who wish they were part of the Tribe. As I’ve said before, I don’t know how much stock to put into things like leadership, clubhouse/veteran presence, etc., but this team is making me reconsider my stance, and this isn’t an overreaction to four games!
This team has fun. Anyone who watches Nick Swisher (who seems to be finally winning the hearts and minds of the Cleveland fanbase) knows that he’s having fun. Anyone who watched Jason Giambi deliriously dance around the bases last September knows that team was having fun, too. Though it might be unrelated, my mind goes back to the last great Cavaliers teams, and how much fun they had on the way to winning 60+ games in back-to-back seasons. It’s unscientific, but it certainly seems that teams that have fun seem to win more.
Well, duh. Of course teams that are winning are having fun… do they pay me for this level of analysis? (No, they do not.)
What I mean is that this team looks like something totally different from last season, and the whole organization is better for the successes of the previous campaign. This team has gone from “trying to contend” to “expecting to contend” and you can just see that every player in that dugout believes it. There is a tangible difference between the team that took the field in Oakland a few days ago and the one that walked off the field heartbroken five months ago: these guys are looser, they aren’t putting undue pressure on themselves when they get behind, and they just grind out runs and at-bats and wins. All three of the Indians wins have been dramatic, but they haven’t felt that way to me. When I see this team score two in the 9th in Oakland, or come from behind on the second game of a doubleheader, or shake off four innings of rust and explode for a lead… I don’t act surprised anymore — I expect it, because you can tell the players expect it.
This is how a winning team wins baseball games — they expect to win, and they have fun doing it.
I’m falling in love with this team pretty hard right now, if you can’t tell.
Game 5 Preview:
Today is the debut of Carlos Carrasco: Starter Reclamation Project. While many (myself included) believe Carlos belongs in the bullpen, the team is giving him one last chance to prove he can stick in a Major League rotation. He gets a relatively easy assignment today against a Twins club that just isn’t going to score a lot of runs on a regular basis, and I hope he can capitalize on it.
The Indians will square off against Kyle Gibson, who is making his 11th career start after putting up a 6.53 ERA in 10 starts last season. He pitched against the Indians last august, going 5.1 innings and allowing 3 runs, so the Tribe will be looking to do some more damage to him this afternoon.
Feel free to use the comment section as a game thread when action gets underway.