Tag Archives: Chris Antonetti

The Tribe is Alive!

The Tribe is alive. I can’t believe it either.

The Cleveland Indians are just 4 games back of the second wildcard spot entering the final month of the season.

A month ago, I, and many others, were counting the Tribe as out. The bats were dead, the starting pitching wasn’t keeping the game in check and the bullpen was suspect. Add to that the lack of moves by the front office at the deadline and our suspicions weren’t unfounded.

This season was over, in every sense of the word.

And then, slowly but surely the Tribe won a few games.

Then the won a few series and then, they got a sweep.

The bats have been working lately, the starting pitching has been keeping opposing hitters at bay, and the bullpen, when they’ve been needed, have delivered.

The defensive play has been the hidden lynch pin to the Indians streak of success as of late. Who would have known that the addition of Abraham Almonte (seriously?) in centerfield and the return of Lonnie Chisenhall in RF along with the play of Francisco Lindor and Giovanny Urshela on the left side of the infield.

After the current series with the Blue Jays, the Indians have games within and only within the AL Central. Those games include 6 against the Tigers (3/3 Home/Away), 6 against the White Sox (3/3 Home/Away), 7 against the Royals (4/3 Home/Away), and 6 against the Twins (3/3 Home/Away). They are going to need to win approximately 80% (20) games to cement themselves in the wildcard playoff for the American League. There is no chance anyone in the American League Central will catch the Royals. Currently, they are 13 games ahead of the second place team, the Minnesota Twins and 16 games ahead of the Indians.

The next month of baseball could be very interesting. Undoubtedly, memories of 2013 have begun to whimsically drift into the back of my head as I reminisce about one of the greatest months of baseball in recent memory.

While the next month will be interesting, the big Indians-related news of the week occurred late Sunday night

Shapiro back, back, back and gone to Toronto

Reports surfaced last week of an impending offer of the Presidency/CEO duties of the Toronto Blue Jays to current Indians President Mark Shapiro. The collective interwebs and social media were aflame with ifs, ands, and buts about the whole thing before it went quiet for a few days.

Then on Sunday, the hammer was dropped. Multiple well-known and respect sports journalists reported that Mark Shapiro would accept the offer from the Blue Jays effective at the end of the 2015 season. Soon after, the team confirmed it and a press conference was scheduled for Monday afternoon.

At the presser, Mark said he was excited about the opportunity for growth in Toronto and addressed (barely) issues he faced here in Cleveland. When asked about attendance, he side-stepped the issue and moved on to other topics of interest.

Direct reports to Shapiro will now report to Paul Dolan and Dolan also stated he will not look outside the organization for a successor for Mark. It would appear that the next era of the Cleveland Indians Presidency will take effect from within the organization and speculation has begun about who that individual will be.

When looking back over Shapiro’s impressive 24 year career in Cleveland, one can’t help but feel bad for the guy.

When John Hart left the organization in 2001 and Shapiro ascended the GM throne, he was left with a very bad situation: a fan base used to winning and winning a lot, a minor league system devoid of any serviceable talent ready for the majors, and owners who didn’t want to spend much money on talent.

With that, Mark began the process of shaping the Indians from the ground up into the team he envisioned. Unfortunately for him, his drafts were awful. In the early to mid-portions of the first decade of the 2000s, you would be hard-pressed to name one decent major leaguer that came up through the Indians farm system (and no, Matt LaPorta isn’t decent. At all). Where Mark really shined was in his ability to leverage current team assets towards futures of other teams’ farm assets.

Case and point: the Bartolo Colòn trade of 2002:

In 2002, the Cleveland Indians were out of contention and Shapiro pulled the trigger on a deal that sent staff ace Bartolo Colòn to the Montreal Expos for Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips.

I don’t need to tell you about the contributions and accolades that group of players have garnered over the course of their MLB careers to prove to you how fantastic that trade was.

When Shapiro stepped aside for Chris Antonetti to assume the role of GM, he took over as team president and was able to turn his attention things outside of personnel and baseball operations. His role in the new construction at the ballpark which debuted this season and his work in making Progressive field more fan and family friendly have been enormous. I love what has been done to Progressive field and I feel way more connected to the team and the game when I’m at the stadium than when I was younger.

Mark Shapiro has been around the Indians organization for longer than I’ve been alive. He has been there with us during the highs (1994-2001), the lows (2002-2006), and the playoff runs and appearances (1995-1999; 2001; 2007, and 2013). He has felt the heartache we’ve all experienced at one point or another. He’s felt the exhilarating highs of Tom Hamilton’s walk off calls in the lazy summer evenings and the lows of a Matt Underwood curse before an opposing player does something great.

Sure he’s a part of the organization, but he is also one of us. He did the very best he could with the resources he had, and I for one, can’t blame him for anything. He’s going to a great organization north of the border with deep pockets and a handful of great hitters. I wish him nothing but the best, and hopefully, he’ll come back around Cleveland from time to time to check in on us.

Indians sign Kluber and Carrasco long-term; Buck 20 year trend in the process

In the last week, the Indians front office has bucked a trend dating back to the great teams of the 1990s

On Sunday, the Cleveland Indians announced they had signed 2014 AL Cy Young recipient and staff ace, Corey Kluber, to a 5 year $38.5 million deal and two additional club option years worth $13.5 million and $14 million respectively. The deal also includes escalators based on where Kluber finishes in the AL Cy Young race between 2015-18. Over those years, it could increase Kluber’s deal to nearly $77 million.

Kluber said that he “wanted to be here” and “that was the driving force behind it for me”.

Then, on Tuesday, the Indians announced the contract extension of SP Carlos Carrasco. His deal spans 4 years and is worth approximately $22 million. It also includes club options for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

Carrasco said “They never gave up on me. They always gave me the opportunity. That’s what they did last year. They gave me a big opportunity and I didn’t waste it. I took it and I think everything has worked out.”

There are two things here that are relevant and important to the story at hand:

  1. Both pitchers want to be here. They see the value in being a pitcher in this organization
  2. The Indians front office signed both pitchers to long term extensions; something they do not have a history of doing. Ever.

Both pitchers want to be here

I think the most interesting part of this collection of signings is the players involved see value in being a part of the team. The brand that the front office, Tito, and the coaching staff is building is one that appeals to players. That’s huge when teams are competing for free agents and money becomes a non-factor. The next question an agent may ask of the teams in contention are the culture in the locker room, living quality of the city in question, etc. Cleveland is on an uptick and the culture on the team is one that is contagious; players and people want to be around it.

The Indians front office signed both pitchers to long term extensions

The Indians are notorious for not signing starting pitchers to long term extensions. They’re so notorious that I even addressed the issue in an article during spring training last year – Well Masty, It was nice knowing you – and made the point several points that fly in direct conflict with what has happened over the past week. It’s funny because I ended the article with the line “Our players are assets. We must always remember that. Enjoy the time your favorites are here because you can always count on contracts staying short in Cleveland.”

It would appear that this year, my summation does not apply.

This following chart from Tony Lastoria’s (of Indians Baseball Insider) article last year around the same time (@TonyIBI) shows just how out of character these signings are with respect to history:

TABLE 1

PLAYER CONTRACT
Charles Nagy 4 years, $24 million
Jake Westbrook 3 years, $33 million
Chuck Finley 3 years, $27 million
C.C. Sabathia 3 years, $24.75 million
Paul Byrd 3 years, $21 million
Jack McDowell 2 years, $9.5 million
Dennis Martinez 2 years, $9 million
Dwight Gooden 2 years, $5.5  million
Orel Hershiser 2 years, $3 million

 

Clearly, Corey Kluber’s deal in particular surpasses anything (in terms of time) that has been agreed upon in the past 20+ years.

 

The core of the Indians is locked in and the time to compete is now

With players like Yan Gomes, Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Corey Kluber, and Carlos Carrasco locked up for the long term, the Indians’ front office clearly believes they can compete and compete for years to come. With players like Lindor, Frazier and others in the minors continuing their respective developments, the Indians will continue to compete after some of the deals with current deals being to expire.

It’s an exciting time to be an Indians fan. Not just because of the short term potential of this year, but also the potential to compete over the long haul.

Go Tribe & remember to tune in to the Tribe Time Now podcast every week at tribetimenow.com/subscribe for the latest Tribe news and opinions from your favorite sports writers, bloggers, and opinionists.

Indians Sign RHP Gavin Floyd, Look to Clone Scott Kazmir

Approximately 15-20 minutes after my weekly column posted to More Than a Fan: Cleveland yesterday afternoon, The Cleveland Indians announced that they had signed RHP Gavin Floyd to a 1 year/$4 million deal with the ability to reach $6 million if Floyd reaches certain performance incentives.

Gavin’s career spans roughly 11 years with stints in Philadelphia, Chicago (White Sox) and Atlanta.

He has 196 starts under his belt, a career ERA of 4.40 with a 72-72 record (.500) and a career FIP (a statistic that strips away the role defense and luck play to more accurately shoe pitcher performance over a given period of time) of  4.36 (which unfortunately ranks between “Poor” and “Awful” according to fangraphs.com).

Floyd’s best season over the course of his career was his 2008 campaign.

In 2008, Floyd posted a 17-8 record while accumulating a 3.84 ERA (his best mark in the seasons in which he had more than 10 starts). He posted above average K/9 & BB/9 ratios (6.3 & 3.1 respectively. His WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched) of 1.26 was a 2nd best in his career. Unfortunately, his FIP was 4.77 during that same season, which is a pretty awful number.

Most recently, in 2014, Floyd went 2-2 in 9 starts before packing it in due to injury. In that time, he racked up a 2.65 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. His 7.5 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9; considered great and excellent per fangraphs.com.

I like the signing, but I have to admit, I needed a day to come around with it.

After writing about how the Indians stood pat while their AL Central foes added serious talent, I felt as if the front office visited the island misfit toys to see how they could stay relevant on a budget. When I found out Floyd was coming off elbow surgery, I became even more upset.

But then something changed.

I listened to the highlights of the press conference regarding Floyd led by Chris Antonetti and, according to him, Floyd’s fastball velocity is actually higher than what it was in 2014 before his season-ending elbow injury (See an analysis MLB.com’s Matt Waymire  & Jeff Nelson here).

I was also surprised that Floyd immediately has a spot in the 2015 rotation.

Scott Kazmir had to work and prove himself to get into the bottom of the 2013 rotation. Granted, Kaz was came in from playing in a semi-professional league. Floyd pitched in the majors last year and has pitched in the majors for the last 11 years. I guess I felt that some of our younger guys who have put in the time deserved a shot at the rotation before just giving it to a veteran journeyman.

Either way, the Indians have improved the roster with Floyd’s signing. Hopefully, Floyd can channel his inner Scott Kazmir and have a great season for great value. If he does, we need to seriously never distrust the front office ever again. They obviously have an eye for talent (young and old).

I guess we’ll see when pitchers and catchers report (under 65 days if my calculations are correct)!

Go Tribe!

Cleveland Indians Thanksgiving

 

First off, I want to wish all of you readers out there a Happy Thanksgiving!

For the first time in several years, Cleveland sports fans can actually be thankful for their teams. That got us thinking at MTAF: Cleveland — What would different members of the professional organizations be thankful for as they sat around the table sharing Thanksgiving dinner?

As a fan of the Cleveland Indians, I attempted to delve into the mindsets of several different members of the organization, trying to ascertain what they would be giving thanks for.

Chris Antonetti & Mark Shapiro

My first thought with regard to what Chris and Mark would be thankful for would be getting Terry Francona to come on board and coach the Tribe. But then I sat back and looked at the larger picture. If I was Chris or Mark, I would be thankful for how well the trades they’ve made over the past ten years have worked out. Just look at how a handful of the following trades worked out (in terms of production) for the Indians:

Year CLE Sends CLE Receives
2002 Ryan Drese & Einar Diaz Travis Hafner
2008 Casey Blake Carlos Santana
2009 Victor Martinez Justin Masterson & Nick Hagadone
2006 Ben Broussard Shin-Soo Choo
2006 Eduardo Perez Asdrubal Cabrera
2002 Bartolo Colon Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips & Cliff Lee

And those are just a few of the trades that have been made. Think about this: In a three team deal involving the Cardinals and the Padres, we gave up veteran pitcher Jake Westbrook and received 2014 AL Cy Young Winner Corey Kluber. Had Matt LaPorta worked out better, the Sabathia deal (which included 2014 MVP finalist and Silver Slugger award winner Michael Brantley) would have been seen as more genius than the Colon deal.

As Mark and Chris pass the gravy boat, they’re going to be giving thanks that so many of their trades worked out so well.

Terry Francona

As Terry Francona rides his scooter to the store to pick up cranberry sauce, I imagine he too will think about what he’s thankful for. I would venture a guess that he’s thankful for several things:

1. His health

2. Mickey Callaway

Tito has probably never worried about his health (see: Urban Meyer). I’m not old by any stretch (I’m 23). I’ve found out that older men are thankful for their health, regardless of how healthy they actually are. Next, Tito should be counting his lucky starts that he has Mickey Callaway sitting on his bench coaching up his pitchers. Think about 2013. Mickey Callaway turned around a struggling Ubaldo Jimenez into quite possibly the best pitcher of the second half in the American League. I feel that if Tito had started Ubaldo in the place of rookie Danny Salazar, the Indians may have gone on to be World Series champions. Then we look back at 2014 and (channeling my innermost LeBron here) not one, not two, but THREE examples of what Mickey Callaway can do. First, Corey Kluber. Mickey has said that he really didn’t have to do much with Klubes this past season. As much as I’d like to believe that, there’s a reason he’s the pitching coach. Mickey worked with Corey to develop his secondary pitches and propel him into the upper echelons of pitching talent in the MLB. Next, there is Trevor Bauer. Bauer’s problem in 2013 was consistency and immaturity. Unfortunately for Trevor, he is young and often impatient. He need time to develop under more mature, accomplished pitchers. He got that with Justin Masterson and Corey Kluber. This year, while he had his troubles, Bauer was much more consistent and flashed some of the greatness that made the front office go out and get him. Finally, we have Carlos Carrasco. Known affectionately as “Cookie” among die-hard Tribe fans, Cookie experienced many of the same issues that Bauer faced — inconsistency and maturity. Remember his ejection and subsequent suspension in 2011 against Kansas City? How about his ejection for plunking Kevin Youkilis in 2013? That wasn’t a wild arm. Tito and Mickey worked with Carrasco and put him in the bullpen in 2014 and boy, did he deliver. Carrasco was electric out of the pen and proved to be the long-reliever we needed, especially when one of our starters couldn’t make it out of the 4th or 5th inning. How many times can you remember Carrasco putting in three to four quality innings, saving our bullpen arms for the home stretch?

Finally, The Indians are thankful for YOU, the fans.

When you go to a game or buy a jersey, you help finance the continued journey toward that elusive World Series title. When you get on Twitter or Facebook and talk about the Indians, you help them make a branding impact on new fans or fans who just don’t know it yet. When you write odes to Tom Hamilton or romanticize what the Tribe means to you on a t-shirt, you help the Indians build an regional identity. In a city like Cleveland, our professional sports teams need their fans as much as we need our teams. In some ways, we define one another. The Indians wouldn’t have much meaning without us and we wouldn’t have much meaning without them. So when the front office, the coaching staff and the players sit around their respective tables to share food and make memories, they will probably reflect, even if it’s only for a moment, on what it means to put on the Tribe uniform day in and day out for the best fans in the major leagues.

As for me, I’m thankful for football, a lot of food and a day off to enjoy it all with my family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving fans. Enjoy your turkey.

Well Masty, It Was Nice Knowing You…

After avoiding arbitration with 1 year deal, Masterson could be gone before year’s end

 

Cleveland, we need to have an intervention:

 

As Cleveland Indians’ fans, we’ve been known to be a bit delusional. Not unlike the 7th grader who hasn’t given up hope on Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, etc. To think that Justin Masterson signs a long-term extension is, well, delusional. Like many before him, he’s going to go where his talent is appreciated. No, not in terms of applause and adoration – we’ve given him plenty of that.

 

I’m talking cash. Dinero. Fat stacks of Benjamins.

 

On Tuesday afternoon, it was reported and confirmed that members of the Indians’ front office and Justin Masterson met and sealed a 1 year deal worth approximately $9.8 million. By reaching a deal, the camps avoided an arbitration hearing scheduled for February 20th. That $9.8 number is a little below the $9.925 million median between Masterson’s ask of $11 million and the Indians’ offer of approximately $8 million. There had been concern among the local Cleveland media and fans that a deal would not be reached in time for the February 20th arbitration hearing thus souring any chance of a long-term extension for Masterson down the line.

 

Several individuals were quick to point out that, while fans were looking for a long-term extension, the Indians do not have a track record of doing so. In fact, according to Tony Lastoria (@TonyIBI), the Indians have only handed out 3 or 4 year deals a handful of times over the last 10-13 years:

 

Tony Lastoria tweets

 

Additionally, He provided some fantastic charts in his article (found here) that takes the reader down the rabbit hole a little further regarding the Indians’ reluctance to hand out long-term deals.

 

In some ways, I tend to agree with the mindset of the Indians. As a small-market city, we see the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers of the league signing players to obscenely large deals in terms of length and money. Off the top of my head, I think of Clayton Kershaw in LA (7 year/$215 million) and Masahiro Tanaka (7 years/$155 million). One things for certain of the former: Kershaw has proven that he deserves the $215 million. He is the best pitcher in the national league right now. Tanaka went 24-0 in Japan so I have little doubt that he deserves the money. It must be nice to have the capitol to go out and make signings like that every year. Back on Kershaw: There were only two pitchers last year that I can honestly say will challenge him this upcoming year:

 

1. Adam Wainwright (STL)
2. Jose Fernandez (MIA)

 

Fernandez in particular was ridiculous. Phenom might be an understatement in terms of description. That kid is going to have a long and lucrative career and it would be in Miami’s best interest to either:

 

A. Lock him up long-term for a price above market price or;
B. Shop him at the deadline either this year or next

 

When you start making big deals like L.A. or New York have a tendency to do, you start wrapping up more and more guaranteed money with one player. If that player gets hurt or begins to underperform, not only are you stuck with that player, but you are also paying top dollar for a lower tier of performance. Maybe that’s the genius of how the Indians front office operates. Signing players to short-term deals with incentives being the key to organization and fiduciary success? To back that up, I would argue Cleveland was the Cy Young factory between 2005 – 2008 (Bartolo Colón won it in ’05, Sabathia in ’07, and Lee in ’08) and they did it for next to nothing. Look up the contract numbers for the latter pitchers while they were in Cleveland. They got jack shit while they were in Cleveland compared to the deals they signed elsewhere. Sabathia in particular is someone who made a huge jump in pay when he landed with the Yankees after his rental half-season in Milwaukee. While Colon was with the Angels during his award-winning year, his success began and grew in Cleveland. All three of those pitchers are now elsewhere and not performing nearly to the level of dominance they had while in Cleveland.

 

On a side note:

 

Remember the Expos – Indians deal in 2002? No? Let me run you through how amazing that deal was for the Indians (and Reds!). The Indians received (for Bartolo Colón and a player to be named):

 

– Grady Sizemore
– Cliff Lee
– Brandon Phillips
– Lee Stevens

 

Colón was primed for money the Indians didn’t have and the 2002 season was a bust. He was near the end of a 4 year/$9.25 million contract (according to @TonyIBI) and the Indians were moving in a different direction (rebuilding). In a brilliant move, the Tribe got rid of the heavy weight (literally and in terms of future salary responsibility) and got a bunch of prospects in return. Look at that list? We received a future Cy Young winner, arguably one of the best center fielders between 2005 – 2008, and one of the better second base prospects over the course of the first decade of the new millennia. Of course, the Indians traded Philips to the Reds, but (creatively looking at the situation), they got Chris Perez for him. Chris Perez had his ups and downs over the course of his career in Cleveland, but for every blown save, he shut the door just as much, if not more.

 

Obviously, the Indians don’t have a track record of signing pitchers to long-term deals and we shouldn’t expect them to change that pattern for Justin Masterson. I hope to God they do, but I guess I won’t be surprised if they don’t. Maybe the signings of Swisher and Bourne last year (4 year/$56 million & 4 years/$48 million respectively) are a sign of a changing of the guard. Maybe Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti are realizing that to win, spending has to occur. We can hope that’s the case, but if it were, Ervin Santana would have been signed a long time ago for the $50+ million he’s going to get for a four year deal with another team.

 

As an engaged fan base, we need to come to terms with the fact that we are a small-market team with low attendance figures and low season ticket numbers. We need to come to terms with those facts so we don’t continue to build up a false reality where we sign big free agents every offseason. Free agents (believe it or not) don’t see Cleveland as a “prime” destination. Additionally, free agents know that they’re not going to get a long-term deal here, especially if they’re a pitcher. Finally, free agents know that the stage in Cleveland is much smaller than stages on the East and West coasts. They know that even if they hit for the cycle, ESPN will give them a two minute highlight before going back to talking about Derek Jeter’s farewell tour for a half an hour.

 

As we move forward, the front office is going to continue the tried and true method of finding and developing talent on the farm rather than augmenting our reality with free agents.

 

We need to accept that and move on.

 

The only way Justin Masterson gets a long-term extension from the Indians that is worthy of the pitcher that he is would be if (going into the all-star break), he tossed 12+ wins, had a sub-2.00 ERA, and 100+ strikeouts. Probable? Sure. Will it happen? Probably not (This is Cleveland, remember?)

 

In closing, I look for Justin Masterson to have a standout year for us. In fact, if it starts off right, and carries it into the all-star break, it could be Cy Young worthy. Regardless, the Indians will probably not make him a long-term offer and he will probably go elsewhere. If things are going badly heading toward the trade deadline, it wouldn’t surprise me if the front office sends him packing for prospects.

 

Our players are assets. We must always remember that. Enjoy the time your favorites are here because you can always count on contracts staying short in Cleveland.

The Tribe Roller Coaster Continues

From August 5th to August 10th, the Cleveland Indians did their best to prove that the inevitable “August collapse” was well on it’s way and this season would be yet another disappointing one.

Coming into a huge four-game series with the Detroit Tigers, the Indians were 13 games over .500 and ready to prove they belonged.

Except, they did the opposite. They proved they didn’t belong… or so we thought.

The four-game set was the worst we’ve seen on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario in quite some time, as the Tribe lost all four games to Detroit- including two in very heart-breaking fashion.

While failing to stay relevant in the Central, the Tribe looked to bounce right back in the Wild Card race against the Los Angeles Angels.

Again, they failed.

Looking as if they would get swept by a hugely-disappointing Angels team, the season might have changed with one swing of the bat.

A Nick Swisher two-run home run awoke the Tribe bats and brought back the spirit that was taken by the ferocious Kitties of the Motor City, as the Indians avoided a seven game losing streak before a big road trip.

The nine-game stint away from home started in Minnesota and again, it seemed as if the Indians would falter.

Another swing of the bat, this time a Jason Giambi three-run home run, kept the Tribe alive and relevant in the playoff chase.

It was then off to Oakland in a battle for the AL Wild Card spot. The Indians offense failed to show as they lost two of three and once again made sure that the fair-weather Tribe fans were talking of the “August collapse” yet again.

Low and behold, after being four and a half games out in the Wild Card race, the Indians picked up two games on Oakland as they swept the Angels to complete their nine-game, West Coast road trip.

An off day yesterday sets up what we like to call “crunch time” for the Tribe.

After all of the trials and tribulations, all of the heart-break and triumph, all of the bandwagon jumping, here the they sit.

69-58.

5.0 games behind Detroit in the AL Central.

2.5 games behind Oakland in the AL Wild Card.

10-10 in the month of August.

21 games from 90 wins with 35 games left.

Primed for a September run.

The ups and downs have only proved one thing: the Indians are a roller coaster team, but they demand the attention of their riders no matter where car is on the track.

The good news is, after a tremendous drop in the middle of August, the Indians seem to be climbing back up the tracks and may reach their peak right in time for the biggest series of the season: a three-game set with the Tigers in Detroit.

We all know what happened the last time we looked ahead to a series with the Tigers and we all know that series was supposed to be the biggest of the year.

What we didn’t know, however, was that the Tigers would struggle so mightily against the Chicago White Sox and the Kansas City Royals and would therefore keep the Indians in the thick of the AL Central race.

Although the Indians are far and away over-matched by Detroit, their frame of mind may help them to succeed at Comerica Park.

In the last series in between these two teams, the pressure was entirely on the Tribe and they crumbled under it. This series, however, the pressure will be on Detroit, as they’ll fight to keep their significant lead in the AL Central.

While the Tigers are certainly capable of putting the Tribe away for good, the Indians have been a good team when the pressure is off. I’m not saying they’re going to sweep the Tigers and find themselves just two games back in the AL Central heading into September, but I’m saying there’s a much larger chance of that happening this time around than there was last time.

There’s even more great news in all of this. The week coming into the AL Central showdown holds a four game set between the Tigers and Athletics- the two teams that are currently ahead of the Indians in the playoff race.

It’s a win/win for the Tribe. If the Tigers lose the series, the Indians should make up ground in the Central. If the Tigers win the series, the Indians will make up ground in the Wild Card.

Either way- and especially if the Indians can avoid a sweep in Atlanta- the Indians will gain ground in the playoff race before the true “series of the season” begins.

We must remember however, even if things turn for the worst in Detroit, that the season isn’t done. Quite frankly, it’s not even close.

If this was 2012, sure, I’d be just as skeptical as you are.

This team is different, however, and they’ve proved it time and time again.

I’m not going to bring up attendance and tell you to “get to the ballpark”. I’m not going to tell you to “stay with the team come thick or thin”.

I’m just going to tell you the facts.

The Indians are going to stick around at least until the end of September, whether you’re on board or not. You can be in “football” mode and forget about them in place of the Browns, but they’re still going to be very relevant until the end of the season, and hopefully beyond.

That’s just how Mark Shapiro, Chris Antonetti, and Terry Francona have put this team together. They were built for resilience and built to contend.

Thus far they’ve done both and delivered on their promise to bring excitement back to baseball in Cleveland.

Regardless of their final record, I’m excited for this final month of the regular season. This is what we, the faithful fans of the Tribe, have been waiting for all season.

A chance to play meaningful games in September. A chance to make the playoffs. A chance to bring the magic back.

It all comes down to this, Tribe fans. I hope you’re ready for a magical, heart-breaking, and exhilarating ride.

2016: Cleveland's "Next Year"

 

About a year and 99 posts ago, I joined More Than A Fan as a young and naive writer looking to gain experience in sports journalism.

A year ago, things were a lot different for me. I was at a different school, my career path was in the process of changing, and there were quite a few different writers on this site. The Cavs still had Byron Scott, the Browns had Pat Shurmur, and the Indians had Manny Acta. Swisher was still a Yankee, Bourn was still a Brave, and Reynolds was an Oriole. While many things in my life have changed, most for the better, I like to think that More Than a Fan was the first step in the positive direction, and for that, I am very grateful.

I really want to thank Josh Flagner and Ryan Isley for all that they’ve done for me in my year here at More Than A Fan. They took what I believe was quite a risk when they brought on a 19 year-old kid to expand their blog. I had very little experience, was quite opinionated, and thought I knew way more about sports than I actually did. They’ve been nothing but helpful and supportive, and for that I am truly thankful. You know when you are around quality people, and I knew within days of getting in on this website that I was surrounded by them. Josh and Ryan, thank you!

I also want to thank Damien Bowman for his guidance since his arrival. Damien was brought aboard the MTAF bandwagon much later than I, but has somehow been much more effective than I’ll probably ever be. Damien has been a source of information and help that I couldn’t do without. He’s helped me on pieces, given me advice, and has always been available whenever my seemingly endless myriad of questions come to mind. Thank you Damien, for all of your hard work!

I want to thank the other writers for helping to promote More Than A Fan and upping the quality of work that is posted on the website. Damon, Mark, Mike, Matt, Kyle, and even teenage Matt, you guys are really great at what you do, and it’s an honor to be writing on the same website as you week after week, thanks!

Finally, I want to thank you the readers. You are the people who help MTAF to grow more and more with each coming day. Thank you for taking the time to read and appreciate our work. I’m sure I’m speaking for everyone when I say we truly appreciate your readership. More Than A Fan would be nothing but a bunch of guys rambling about sports if it wasn’t for your support. I’d like to thank you again, as I truly appreciate you all.

As this is my 100th post, I hope to write 100 more and become an even larger part of the MTAF community within the coming year. It’s been an absolute joy!

In Cleveland, the term “next year” may be used more than any other. Next year is what Browns, Cavs, and Indians fans have let themselves believe for just about a half a century now. There is even a blog that’s premise is waiting on that next year. “Next year” is coming folks, and it’s not that far away.

Pretty soon, the city of Cleveland will have three new coaches in their respective sports. Terry Francona will be in the midst of his first year with the Indians, Rob Chudzinski will be in the process of his first season as the Browns Head Coach, and a new Cavaliers Head Coach will take on the challenge of leading the Wine and Gold. This is the first time I can remember the Cavs, Indians, and Browns each coming into a season with a new coach in the same calendar year. While Clevelanders love the coaching carousel, I think this one is going to stop spinning.

It’s a new era in Cleveland sports.

A new owner, a new president, a new vice president, a new general manager, a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator, a new defensive coordinator, and a new special teams coach will all be a part of the 2013 Cleveland Browns for the first time. Phil Dawson will not be a member of the Cleveland Browns for the first time since their return in 1999. Joshua Cribbs will no longer be the face of this franchise. Art Modell is dead. The “expansion Browns” are over.

A new manager, a new face of the franchise, a new lead off man, and a new slugger are now at the heart of the Cleveland Indians. For the first time, the Indians had an offseason worth writing home about. For the first time, Larry Dolan decided that money was to be spent. For the first time since the 1990’s, the Indians are the talk of the town. The Indians made their biggest free agent signing ever, bringing back Ohio State graduate, Nick Swisher, back to the Buckeye State. This is not your 2000’s Tribe.

A new coach, a new outset, and a new core of players have the Cavaliers primed for contention. They will have bright young prospects coming in for the third year in a row, thanks to the NBA Draft. The Cavs are on the brink, and the new coach is just what they need. While the owner and General Manager have stayed the same throughout, the Cavs are a young and exciting group that, after this disappointing season, will bring some magic back to the Q.

While things may seem gloom and doom for the city of Cleveland and it’s sports teams at the moment, (Byron Scott’s firing, the Indians getting off to a slow start, and Jimmy Haslam being accused of fraud), this may be the most exciting time to be a Cleveland sports fan within the past twenty years. The next couple of years will prove it.

The Cleveland area code is 216. It’s the number by which the city is called, and it’s been especially significant recently as Cleveland celebrated it’s 216th birthday. Well, I’m calling it right now, in 2016, the year that will numerically resemble the city of Cleveland, the Indians, the Browns, and the Cavs will be competing for Championships in their respective sports. A NBA Finals trophy, the Lombardi trophy, or a World Series trophy will be brought back to the city of Cleveland, and it’s going to happen in 2016.

This is why.

The Browns, by 2016, will be an established football team. Rob Chudzinski will establish himself as a great NFL head coach thanks to his offensive prowess, his coaching demeanor, and his overall attitude. By 2016, his experience will make him one of the better coaches in the game. Brandon Weeden will have established himself as a quality QB, who is incredibly comfortable in his coaches offensive system. Trent Richardson will keep pace with some of the top backs in the NFL and his injury bug will diminish as his number of carries dwindle. The aggression that Ray Horton preached in his time with the Browns will continue long after he is gone. Joe Thomas and the offensive line are going to be one of the most underrated and solidified groups the NFL has ever seen. The Browns are going to break that playoff barrier in 2015 and are going to return to their spot as a perennial powerhouse in the NFL thanks to Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi, and Jimmy Haslam. In 2016, everything will be in place, and the Browns will be poised for a Super Bowl run.

In 2016, the Indians will finally have the pitching to compete for a World Series. A roster chalked-full of veteran players, Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn will lead the way and bring the magic of the Jake back to Progressive Field. Through free agency and trades, the Indians’ starting rotation will be a solid group of young guns and veteran touch. Michael Brantley will become one of the best contact hitters in the Major League. Jason Kipnis will be among the best second basemen out there. Carlos Santana will become a bonafide slugger, and the Tribe will hit their prime after a ALDS run in 2015. Again, poised for a World Series run in 2016.

The Cavs, no matter their coach, will be NBA Finals frontrunners in 2016. In year two of LeBron’s return to Cleveland, after an ECF run in 2015, the Cavs will be the favorites to bring home the crown. With Kyrie just hitting the prime of his career, Tristan Thompson becoming a solidified double double threat, and Dion Waiters bringing his offensive game every night, in addition to the three time NBA Champion LeBron James adding his expertise to the roster, the Cavs will have a squad second-to-none come 2016. Mike Brown will get back to the Finals in Cleveland and this time he’ll win it, in 2016.

Call me crazy, but what’s the point of negativity? There is optimism abounding within these rosters, from these coaches, and from these owners. The time for Cleveland sports starts now. These rosters are being built the right way, and the right people are in place. Haslam, Banner, Lombardi, and Chudzinski will be with the Browns when they make their Super Bowl run. Gilbert, Grant, and Brown will be with the Cavs when they make the Finals again. Shapiro, Antonetti, and Francona are going to lead the Tribe back to contention. In 2016, everything is going to come into place and it’s going to be glorious.

LeBron will be back in town, Swisher Buckeye guy will be leading the Tribe, the Browns will be lead by their Brown-loving Chudzinski. Cleveland’s teams are going to be lead to championships by Cleveland guys. It couldn’t be scripted any better. It’s going to happen, I can just feel it.

I know this is horribly optimistic, but what do we have to lose? We’ve been down every road of athletic misery imaginable, what’s the worst a little optimism can do.

In 2016, Cleveland will be known as Title Town. You can mark my words.

2016 is “next year”.

Follow Hayden on Twitter @H_Grove

 

Re-Igniting the Fire in Cleveland Baseball

The aggressiveness and energy displayed by the Front Office this off-season of the Cleveland Indians is unlike any we have seen in quite some time.  The willingness to spend and win now is defiantly at the fore front of the minds of the decision makers within this franchise.  I am sure the sale of STO to Fox Sports Ohio played a huge role in this.

While no one they have signed is a front line superstar, they have brought in some very talented pieces.  It is my opinion that the Tribe is one good arm away from really being looked at as a contender.  I do however believe that this team as constructed will compete for the division.  Part of that is me speaking as a Tribe fan and part of that is me seeing the successes of teams like Baltimore and Oakland last summer.  Not greatly talented teams, but perfectly constructed well enough to play great ball together.

While the moves have gotten the fan base excited, we could be playing with fire right now.  The Indians front office has rarely shown the ability or interest to spend.  This off-season started with the hiring of Terry Francona and continued with uncharacterisitic signings by the Tribe.  In my opinion, this is putting a heck of a lot of pressure on Terry Francona to win.  While pressure can sometimes be a good thing, if things don’t play out like the front office is envisioning, we may never see spending like this again from the current ownership.

I believe that Terry Francona is a very talented coach.  His ability to get star players to buy in and play together has been very well documented.  His ability to develop talent is up for debate.  Those years in Philadelphia were pretty forgettable for Phils fans.  That’s why I believe it was important to put good solid veterans around Cleveland’s young emerging stars.  The front office did that, I’m not sure if the pressure to spend came from Francona or Chris Antonetti or a combination of both, either way it got done.  With the Dolans stepping out of their comfort zone like that, it better pay off on the field.

Francona is the man for the task in my opinion.  He seems to get the best out of players.  While the Indians have me beyond excited for this season, my biggest fear is that things won’t pan out and a fire sale will ensue.  I am sure the Dolans are expecting an immediate return on investment for the money they have put up.  I do give them credit though; they had no excuse not to spend after the massive sale of STO.  Not spending would have distanced them even further from the fan base.

Now it’s time for the fan base to step up and handle their end of the deal.  For years we have been clamoring for them to spend; to put a product on the field worth watching.  Well the front office has answered our calls.  It’s time to pack the Jake (yes, the Jake), like the days of old.  I know it’s not always the cheapest to drag the family to a game, but the excuse that the team doesn’t do what it takes to compete cannot be used anymore.  I have already planned several trips back to Cleveland this summer to take in a few games.  And as always, I will be at every game when they come here in Baltimore in June.

I love this team.  I always have.  I am one of the few fans out there that would take a Tribe World Series Championship over any other championship in Cleveland.  We have tasted success as Tribe fans.  We have been incredibly close to being the best.  That makes me want it even more.  It’s nice to see the excitement back.  Now get out there and support them!

Scott Raab's Truths Shouldn't Mar Cleveland's Future

I once read a book. It was a beautiful book, some would call it heinous. Some would call it childish, bitter. I would call it well-crafted. The author of this book has been there. He was at the 1964 NFL Championship game. He holds the ticket stub between his fingers and often lends it out to others to hold. He was there, that ticket stub serves as a reminder for those who weren’t.

Yesterday marked the 48th Anniversary of the last championship Cleveland has seen. The Browns won a remarkable game against the Baltimore Colts, 27-0. Since that point in 1964, Cleveland teams have been a disgrace to a once proud city, and once proud fans. Many, including Scott and I, believe that Cleveland has reached it’s lowest point ever.

The rant went like this:

“Watching ‘The Band That Wouldn’t Die’ to mark the 48th anniversary of Cleveland’s last title. I doubt that any living fan will see another. Two generations of loss have produced a fanbase that thinks Heckert and Jauron are savants, not utter mediocrities. Open your eyes. Think Weeden & Tristan will ever be more than ciphers, or that Kyrie isn’t already gone, or that Byron Scott gives a shit? Open your eyes. Why would Kyrie Irving, already beloved around the NBA, stay with a franchise that thinks losing will be its path to glory? He won’t. As for MLB, its economics don’t excuse the Dolans or Shapiro for their failure. ‘What If?’ What if you shoved your Thome statue up your ass? 17 unfollows so far. Good riddance. Better you should read about how Weeden & Tristan just need time to grow & CLE fans should be patient. How have ‘stability’ & ‘continuity’ worked for the Tribe? Front offices that judge & develop young talent deserve respect. These guys? Feh. I’d also like younger CLE fans to think harder about what they see, hear, & read. A rocket-armed QB is a must in the AFC North? Bullshit. The Tribe couldn’t locate cheap replacement-level talent at 1B, or RH bats, due to MLB economics? Bullshit. Nowhere else but Cleveland would fans hear a team president tell them NOT to come to the ballpark if they’re too focused on winning. Nowhere but Cleveland would towel-snappers like Chris Perez and Josh Cribbs publicly piss on the people who pay to see them play. I’ll end my 48th Anniversary party thus: The 3 Cleveland teams are an ongoing disgrace to their fans. The won-loss record speaks for itself.”

As sadistic and cynical as it sounds, Scott Raab is spot on.

Cleveland sports are at their low point. The Browns haven’t been competitive since 1999, the Cavaliers were royally screwed, and the Indians are run by a family that isn’t willing to open the checkbook. Things are bad in Cleveland right now. Where I disagree with Scott is that I believe things are turning around, and not in the short term. These changes are for the long term.

Consider this: the Browns have a rookie rusher who broke records held by Jim Brown, arguably the greatest football player ever. He broke these records while being held back by one of the dumbest coaches to roam an NFL sideline. The Cavaliers have the league’s “NEXT” player according to ESPN the Magazine, and the most recent NBA Rookie of the Year. The Indians just made their biggest free agent acquisition in team history in signing Nick Swisher.

The Browns were just sold to a man with a lot of money and a seemingly true and genuine interest in winning football games, unlike his aloof predecessor. The Cavaliers are owned by a man with as much passion as Cleveland has ever seen in terms of winning championships. The Indians have a manager who has won World Series championships, and broken curses in the process.

For once, I truly believe the pieces are in place for Cleveland sports teams to legitimately compete in the near future. The right people are leading the way.

As for Scott, his words ring true.

Kyrie, amidst the misery that is the 2012 Cleveland Cavaliers, at this point is a complete absence in his first shot at free agency. It’s almost as LeBron’s situation in Cleveland. LeBron’s departure, however, was much less justified than Kyrie’s will be. LeBron was competing for championships. Kyrie is competing with the dismal abilities of his teammates. Of course, no one expected the Cavaliers to be playoff-bound, but the atrocities exhibited on the boundless floors of the NBA this season from the Cavaliers are completely unacceptable.

The Browns are a complete an utter mess, a mess that Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner fully intend to clean up. Shurmur is a disgrace, Childress is literally useless (thanks to Shurmur), Jauron let Kirk Cousins look better than RGIII, and Josh Cribbs does nothing for the team, but continually runs his mouth as if he does. Trent Richardson, a feature back who should control the offense, is nothing but an after thought, averaging 16 carries per game. Brandon Weeden throws for a lot of yards, but continually gets his balls tipped and intercepted. Their best and most beloved player is a kicker.

The Indians have been a product of their owners, the Dolans. As transparent as Randy Lerner, the Dolan family has hid the checkbook from Chris Antonetti until they were finally threatened this offseason. While Antonetti has proved his worth as capable General Manager, the Dolans have to go if the Indians want to compete. Antonetti has, somehow, gotten a manager with a pedigree and a big time, Buckeye right fielder. If it were up to the Dolans, the Indians would change their name to the Cleveland Mediocrity.

As frustrating as it is, it’s all true. The Cleveland sports situation was unbelievably, as bad as it has been in the past, at it’s lowest point. Unfortunately, it takes a rant like Scott Raab’s to make people notice. I’ve been saying this for a while, that it has recently been the worst it’s ever been, but I haven’t the following to gain traction. Scott Raab does, and he’s exactly right.

Fortunately for you, the reader, I am more hopeful and optimistic than Mr. Raab. The night is the darkest before the sun comes up. You can see the outer linings of the sun beginning to rise up over the Cleveland horizon. Things are horrible right now. Every team sucks, and no one is close to competing. The media is fluffy, protecting the players and coaches rather than looking at their production, and the fans are more ornery than ever. The pieces are in place, however. The faces of the future of Cleveland are set. Trent Richardson, Kyrie Irving, Nick Swisher. Jimmy Haslam, Dan Gilbert, Terry Francona. These are going to be the guys leading Cleveland back into business. Mediocrity is no longer acceptable.

Growing pains will happen. It sucks to watch, it sucks to feel, it sucks to listen to. That’s what’s happening with the Cavs, and eventually it will happen with the Browns, and maybe even the Tribe.

Scott says repeatedly, open your eyes. Clearly the context in which he used it referred to the haze of mediocrity that Cleveland fans are engulfed in. I’m going to say it in a different way.

Open your eyes Cleveland, the storm is clearing up. It’s still raining, but the winds have stopped and we can see the clear skies ahead. Sure it may take a while to get there, but we have strong ships leading us towards promising land. We will get there. While more patience is not an option, we can’t dwell on the negative. The negativity is simply making everything worse. We have to have optimism. Not a blind optimism, as we have been accustomed to, but a warranted optimism that comes along with having good owners and good coaches. While we’re not fully there on that front, with Black Monday approaching, we will certainly be closer than we’ve been in a while.

I fully expect that next season will be a much better one on the banks of Lake Erie. No, the playoffs may not be on the slate for any of the 2013 teams, but an improvement will certainly be made. The Browns will have a capable head coach, the Cavs will have another lottery pick, the Indians Front Office will be holding the Dolans hostage, demanding more cash. Things will be looking up for Cleveland, and as the dark hole that was Cleveland’s sports picture was certainly real, the bright sky will be certainly evident.

Scott Raab made a lot of Cleveland sports fans angry with his rant. His bitterness may have “hurt” many Brownies, Wahoos, and Cavs alike. But he spoke the truth, as tough as it may have been to hear. Don’t be hurt by his words. Instead imagine “next year” on both of its levels. Cleveland will no longer be the butt of the jokes, the laughing stock of the leagues, the doormats of the divisions. Finally, Cleveland is going to be where it deserves, right on top of the sporting world.

Follow Scott Raab on Twitter @ScottRaab64

Follow Hayden on Twitter @H_Grove 


I Was Wrong About the Indians Front Office

I would like to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, first and foremost! I hope you spend some quality time with your loved ones during this most special time of year!

I would also like to wish you a Merry Swishmas as we all know what happened yesterday!

I have yet to tweet about the Nick Swisher addition because I have no words to describe my elation at his arrival. I actually jumped around my house and hollered like a small child receiving a new bike or a creepy crawlers bug set. It truly was the best Christmas present I could have received, outside of spending time with loved ones. It was one of the more exciting moments of my Indians fanhood. (By the way, do you know how sad that sounds? The fact that signing Nick Swisher is one of the best moments of my sports fandom is absolutely pathetic.) Nevertheless, it was a Merry Swishmas indeed.

I have ripped apart the Indians front office since the trade deadline last season. I have called Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti cowardly, directionless, and gutless. I have called them heartless, stupid, and lacking. I have called them names that I don’t wish to repeat in this piece. I have ripped them apart time after time, and I had sworn to never have faith in this front office again. They lost my faith and lost my trust a long while ago.

Well, I have to admit, I may be the gutless, heartless, directionless, and cowardly one. I wrote off this front office long ago, and it was something I should not have done.

For Shapiro and Antonetti, it was time to put up or shut up. It was time to get things done or get out of town. Believe me, I was chasing them with a pitchfork and a torch. I wanted them gone faster than they could leave. It’s times like these when I feel like the true idiot of this town.

Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti now deserve our support more than ever. The phone was ringing off of the hook and they answered each and every call. First, they made an amazing move getting rid of Choo and adding the pitching talent the Indians so desperately need. Of course, with Boras at the helm, Choo was not coming back to Cleveland. The Tribe definitely got the right price for Shin-Soo and then some. While Drew Stubbs is definitely not a hitter, he’s a good outielder, far better than Shelley Duncan or Ezequiel Carrera for that matter. They then picked up Trevor Bauer, who will certainly be a project but can also be a very high risk, high reward pick up. In all of this they got rid of Jason Donald, who could seemingly never stay in the big leagues, and kept Asdrubal Cabrera and Chris Perez, who are both very valuable whether in a Tribe uniform or as a part of a trade.

They then nabbed Mark Reynolds to fill the giant hole at first base. Last season, Shapiro and Antonetti made an incredibly dumb move bringing Casey Kotchman to the Indians. While they were running out of options, they brought in a guy who was coming off of a flukey season and provided nothing offensively. Honestly, I would’ve rather seen Matt LaPorta try to finally reach his potential rather than see a middle-aged, over the hump Kotchman man first base each and every game. While Reynolds does strike out a ton, that’s what sluggers do. When Reynolds connects, the ball travels, something you can’t say for Kotchman and/or LaPorta. He’s a much better “experiment” than Kotchman ever was.

The Front Office then impressed me with a low risk, high reward signing in Scott Kazmir. I remember the days when Kazmir was a Cy Young candidate, and he was absolutely dominant. While he has fallen off of the wagon, Kazmir, at 28 years old, can still put it together. This has happened before, where a pitcher goes through an incredibly tough stretch but then puts it all back together. While it may not happen, the signing is well worth the risk.

Finally, Shapiro and Antonetti got their man and they guy I wanted all along in Nick Swisher. Undoubtedly the biggest free agent signing in Cleveland Indians history, Shapiro and Antonetti won back a lot of hearts by signing Swisher, including mine. Swisher is literally everything you can ask for. He has the nostalgic pull as he was born in Columbus, he is a graduate of Ohio State, and is in some ways a “home town” player. He puts up numbers on the baseball field, averaging 28 home runs, 90 RBI, and an .828 ops throughout his career. He will put fans in the seats and will be the face of the franchise, both things that the Indians were lacking. Finally, he fits a need. The Indians needed a power-hitting, right-handed outfielder desperately, and Swisher, (although he is a switch hitter), fits the bill.

Shapiro and Antonetti knew that if they wanted to keep their jobs and turn this ship around, they needed Nick Swisher to join the Tribe. They pulled out all the stops, including the checkbook, and, for once, did everything they could and sealed the deal. It took a while, and put Indians fans through a great deal of anxious moments, but in the end the agony of waiting was well worth it. Nick Swisher is now a Cleveland Indian, and the Indians are finally going to have an exciting team, regardless of win total, to watch every night.

I would like to formally apologize for my statements regarding Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti. I am sorry for my ill-will towards the both of them. They have shown me and the rest of the Cleveland Indians fan base that they are ready to put a winning product on the field, regardless of the cost. They have shown me that they are capable of doing such, and they have shown me that the past is in the past, but the present is at hand. If the Indians are competing for a World Series soon, as they did in the 1990’s, we can say it is all thanks to the front office. They decided that enough was enough. They put their noses to the grindstone and finally worked hard to get the Indians in a good place, both for now and the future. I’m sure this isn’t the end of their endeavors either. I’m sure we’ll see a move or two before Spring Training starts. That’s something I never would have said before this offseason.

Mr. Shapiro, Mr. Antonetti, you may have surpassed Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers as the most exciting team in Cleveland. This offseason you have proven yourselves to be the two bright, diligent, and capable young men that you truly are, not those half-assing cowards of the past. I, on behalf of the fans of the Cleveland Indians, cannot thank you enough for giving this team, and this city, some real hope. Finally, thanks to the both of you, the Indians will be back again! Merry Swishmas!

Follow Hayden on Twitter @H_Grove