Giving Thanks

November 27, 2013

It’s that time of year again. The snow has started to fall, the sun sets by 5:30 in the evening, I hate taking my dog outside, the Browns just lost to the Steelers (again), and the Cavs are fielding the most thoroughly unlikeable team since before the LeBron era. We’re still a solid three months away from even the earliest exhibition games in spring training, and the freakin’ Red Sox won the World Series again.

But yet…

With the turkey defrosting in the sink, I can’t help but feel thankful for the things I have, both in my life and in the world of Cleveland sports. On this, the eve of Thanksgiving, I wanted to take a break from sports analysis and share some things we’re thankful for here at It’s Pronounced Lajaway. I asked the writing staff to share with me what they’re thankful for this year (both Indians-related and not), and here’s some of the responses I received:

1. I think I speak for everyone when I say we’re all thankful for Terry Francona. When you tune into the Cavs game tonight and see fans’ inevitably futile efforts to woo LeBron James back to Cleveland, just remember that Francona chose this city not for money or talent, but because he wanted to coach here. Based on the responses I received from the staff, we seem to be in agreement that Terry is quite possibly the best manager this city has had in a long time, and we’re thankful that he chose to continue his career in our fair city.

2. Building on the last point, from writer Chris Burnham: “Jason Giambi. Without his leadership and flair for the dramatic, the Tribe likely never come close to succeeding as much as they did.” It’s easy to discount what a great clubhouse presence means to a team, but it’s clear Giambi helped Francona to steer a young team through some very deep valleys throughout the season. The key home run Giambi hit in late September punctuated this team’s identity as a group of guys who would never quit. It was truly a pleasure to watch, and for that, we’re all thankful.

3. Head Honcho Susan Petrone is thankful for Mike Aviles’ quirky batting stance. While he may be all kinds of average in the field, his batting stance is “so many brands of awesome.” Alongside Giambi, Aviles was a key cog in the wheel, providing everything asked of him off the bench in semi-regular playing time. Building on that, I’m personally thankful for the resurgence of Ryan Raburn, whom Francona managed perfectly towards a career year. I owe my first publication on to the lefty-mashing utility man (Shameless Plug Alert!), and he’s one of my favorite players to root for.

4. Writer Ryan Pinheiro has baseball to thank for helping him discover his passion: “As odd as it may sound, I’m thankful for baseball statistics.  I actually have good reason to say this.  I say this because baseball sparked my interest in numbers as a kid.  It helped me to identify math as one of my academic areas of strength growing up.  It also a major reason for why I am currently pursuing my Mathematics and Statistics degrees at The University of Akron.  Whether I end up pursuing a job in baseball or not, I know that I belong in some sort of analytical field, and I have the the statistical aspect of baseball to thank for helping me realize this.”

5. Yan Gomes. Susan said it best: “I’m thankful for Yan Gomes’s learning curve. For a guy who had only played at catcher in 9 major league games before last season, he caught on fast.” Did he ever! Gomes played so well at catcher for the Tribe that he supplanted mainstay Carlos Santana, a feat that can’t be understated. It’s still early, but the team may have truly found a diamond in the rough in the young Brazilian.

6. Writer Vern Morrison is thankful for the 10-game winning streak the team had to close the season. It’s been two months now, but I don’t know if we fully appreciate what happened during those last ten games of the regular season. The Indians had a razor-thin margin for error, and not only thrived, but they made sure the city of Cleveland had a home playoff game. It didn’t end the way any of us wanted to, but what the team accomplished during the last two weeks of September is nothing short of extraordinary.

7. Chris Burnham is also thankful for the emergence of Danny Salazar, and I personally couldn’t agree more. Yeah, the fastball is a little flat at times, but the team hasn’t had a true fireballer or a true starting prospect quite like Salazar since Cliff Lee a decade ago. There are lofty expectations on the kid already, but he has all the tools in the world to succeed. We’re all excited to see how it turns out.

8. I am thankful for Mickey Callaway. The 2013 Indians hit a lot of the right notes on the way to the Wild Card game, and Callaway may have been the best of them. He turned around Ubaldo Jimenez (who is about to get paaaaaaid) and Scott Kazmir, and deserves a ton of credit for the way the rotation exceeded almost every expectation in 2013.

9. Personally, I am eternally thankful for the opportunity I have here to write for a great blog. This has been my first season with IPL and I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to write about the sport and team that I love. I want to personally thank IPL owners Susan Petrone and Stephanie Liscio for the opportunity over the past seven months, and I look forward to another great season in 2014.

10. Finally, I want to echo a sentiment I heard from every writer I talked to: We’re all thankful for the great group of colleagues we have here. We have quite a staff here at IPL, and it’s remarkable how little toe-stepping happens. I also like to think I speak for everyone on staff when I say THANK YOU to you, the reader. You make what we do even more worthwhile than it already is, and I love engaging all of you in commentary.

With all that said, thanks for reading. I wish you all the happiest and most relaxing of holidays, and I look forward to engaging you all in some rousing discussion as we move (ever so slowly) towards the 2014 campaign.