Everyone is still talking about the Sports Illustrated cover and how it has jinxed the Indians so far in the young 2015 season. I’ll admit, the string of bad luck and bad baseball I’ve seen so far has me feeling pretty down in the dumps. But so much can change by the time the weather heats up, for both teams that look bad, and teams that look good. We just have to look to another, more forgotten cover for evidence.
In 2002 the Indians jumped out to an 11-1 start to the season, prompting USA Today’s Baseball Weekly to publish a cover in mid-April with Bartolo Colon and CC Sabathia and the headline “Remake by the Lake: With a New Emphasis on Pitching, Cleveland Proves It’s Still the Team to Beat in the AL Central.” By June, Colon wouldn’t even be on the roster anymore, traded in the famous Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips deal. Manager Charlie Manuel would be fired before the season’s end. The Indians were going all-in for a rebuilding term and finished the 2002 season 74-88 as the Minnesota Twins won the AL Central.
It makes sense that people would jump on the potential success of the 2002 Indians. They were just wrapping up their phenomenal run of success from the 1990s, and lost in the 2001 ALDS after finishing the regular season 91-71. They had their ace, Colon, returning as well as young phenom Sabathia to fit into a nice 1-2 in the rotation. Second baseman Roberto Alomar had been traded during the prior offseason, but with strong pitching, people must have thought they’d find enough offense to get by.
The Indians started the 2002 season by beating the Angels 6-0 in Anaheim on March 31, as Colon pitched a complete game shutout. They lost the next game in Anaheim, then fired off 10 wins in a row; by April 13 they had an 11-1 record. Their series finale against the Royals was rained out on April 14. After that, the Indians only won two more games in the entire month of April. By May 1, their record was now 13-13.
The 2002 Indians were flawed, and quite unlikely to maintain that 11-1 pace for the rest of the season. But they still fooled a number of people into thinking that they were still the “team to beat” due to their hot start. Even though some of the injuries and problems we’ve seen from the Indians so far are fairly serious, it shouldn’t mean that the season should be given up for dead. Nor should teams with red hot starts be handed the World Series trophy before the All Star Break.
It’s a long season, and a lot of different things could happen. Other teams can (and will) see injuries and misfortune, and will go through slumps. Some teams struggling now could hit their stride, leaving a bad week or two at the beginning of the season as a distant memory. If you want evidence that you shouldn’t overreact to the first couple of weeks, just remember the time the “Remake by the Lake” fell apart before the month of April even ended.