Although we’re in the midst of Luke Fickell’s first and last season as Ohio State coach , we shouldn’t forget about the joys baseball season brought us.
Sure, the Cleveland Indians had the best April of any team in the majors – and then slowly drifted into irrelevance, but that shouldn’t overshadow the progress they made this season.
Coming off consecutive 90-plus loss seasons, Fausto Carmona’s Opening Day blow-up against the Chicago White Sox seemed to be an indicator as to how the rest of the season would unfold – just like the last two season.
However, the rest of the pitching staff came together and carried the team throughout the season, while an inconsistent-yet-opportunistic offense emerged.
As someone who didn’t expect to pay close attention to the Indians while Spring Quarter finals were in progress, it came as a huge surprise that they were able to carry my attention into football season.
They entered a three-game series on Aug. 19 tied in the loss column with the division-leading, and evetual division champion, Detroit Tigers.
At the same point last year, the Tribe was 20 games out of first place, and the only exciting thing about playing the Tigers was laughing at Armando Galarraga because an umpire blew his perfect game.
Despite being no-hit this year, the Indians offense showed signs of life, even after their hot start.
Though he ended the season in a two-month slump, Asdrubal Cabrera produced clutch hits and inexplicably had huge power numbers. Carlos Santana needs to cut down on his strikeouts, but proved he can be a mainstay in the middle of the order.
The rest of the order is far from perfect. Jason Kipnis showed a lot of promise but got hurt – injuries spread like polio throughout the lineup. Grady Sizemore continues to be a poor reflection on the Indians medical staff, as he missed most of the year – again – with every injury imaginable.
Fellow outfielders Michael Brantley and Shin-Soo Choo couldn’t stay healthy either. For every game Choo physically played in, he wasn’t mentally there.
Injuries happen to every team but seldom do they ravage a team like they did to the Indians. Somehow, they stayed in the pennant chase into late August.
That’s a testament to the pitching staff. The bullpen in particular carried the team for long stretches.
Chris Perez saved 36 games despite looking shaky in many appearances.
With a solid closer, the rest of a bullpen will fall in line – and they did.
Heading into next year, the rotation will boast two frontline guys in Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez – assuming he’s more consistent.
The rest of the starting staff is more than capable of keeping the team in games.
Eric Wedge-led teams would crumble under the expectations of 2012. With Manny Acta’s presence, the team has an added element of toughness that was lacking in previous editions of Indians teams.
The window to win a World Series — as it is with any small market club — is a small one. The Tribe cracked it open this year and will hopefully take advantage of it next year.