Normally at this time of year, I’m full of misplaced optimism about the Indians’ prospects for the upcoming season. I say things like, “Oh, Hafner was injured last year, so he’ll be better this year” or “Now that Wedge is gone, there’ll be a new vibe in the clubhouse” or, back in the day, “Sure they lost 105 games last season, now they’ve got no where to go but up!” In my heart of hearts, I knew the team was going to stink, but these are the stories we tell ourselves to get through the day.
Once the season starts, reality sets in, and I’m as pessimistic as the next fan. Every game seems to elicit some variation on: “Damn, the Indians can’t buy a win/run/strikeout/meaningful hit/decent right-handed hitter/left fielder.” And every season ends in disappointment.
And then this off season happened. We hired a manager who owns a couple of World Series. More importantly, we hired a manager that talented free agents like playing for. And then we traded one year of Shin Soo-Choo and a couple of spare parts for some really fine players, including a top pitching prospect. Then we signed some big-name free agents like Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Brett Myers, and Mark Reynolds. We made smart moves. We spent some money and we made Smart Moves. Now I find myself watching Spring Training with genuine anticipation. We have the right parts and, I think, the right manager to put those parts together into a successful team.
For the first time in years, feeling optimistic about the team seems reasonable. You can feel it. Whether I’m talking to a friend at the gym or reading comments online, people are excited and we have reason to be. Now I find that it isn’t my optimism that is misplaced, but my pessimism.
We are in the season of hope, the season of waiting. It’s bitter cold and snowy today, but that will change. We know that one day very soon, we will wake up to the sound of the birds singing just for the hell of it and the sight of the sun reflecting not off new-fallen snow but off ridiculously green grass, and we will see brave little crocuses and daffodils start poking their heads out of the ground and smell the damp earth and we will know that it is Spring. And amidst all that hope, we’ll have baseball, and it will be worth watching.