Indians fans: don’t hold your breath

There is nothing quite like the game of baseball. Nothing better than going to the ballpark on a sunny afternoon, ticket in hand, ready to watch our country’s most historic game.

Full of drama, nostalgia and intrigue, baseball is an event where anything can happen. Whether it’s witnessing a player hit a walk off home run to win a game or a climactic pitcher’s duel where the tiniest mistake can mean everything, baseball offers experiences other sports simply cannot reciprocate.

While I’m certainly excited another season has begun, my exhilaration comes with a sense of foreboding. I’m a diehard Cleveland Indians fan and as such, reticence comes par for the course. Because to be a Cleveland sports fan is to undergo the agony of brutal defeat each season. When Murphy came up with his famous law, which states “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong,” he must have been thinking about the Cleveland Indians.

The Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948, and for the last 50 years every Indians season has culminated in heartbreak. They failed in 1995 thanks to David Justice. They gave the World Series away in 1997 due to the choke artistry of Jose Mesa. Last year they fell apart at the end of the season, missing the playoffs by the skin of their teeth.

Nonetheless, hope still remains that this will be the year of redemption for the Tribe. After all, many experts predict the Indians will reclaim the Central Division crown and return to the playoffs, a place they haven’t been in quite a while. This is prompting many Tribe fans to speculate that our team could be in the World Series at the end of the season.

Well, while I hate to be a party pooper, the Indians have as much of a chance of being in the Series this year as Bill O’reilly has of getting an invite to the Democratic National Convention.

But there’s no doubt that on paper, the Indians are a superb baseball team. Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, and Victor Martinez should all put up MVP numbers this year. C.C. Sabathia is a potential 20 game winner, adding to one of the deepest pitching rotations in all of baseball, and most of the outstanding bullpen has also returned.

The problem is the Chicago White Sox are, simply, a better team. If the Tribe wants to get to the playoffs and have a shot at the Series, they’ll have to get past those pesky Sox. Unfortunately, the Indians’ off-season acquisitions were not good enough to put them in a position to usurp the White Sox from atop the Central Division.

Instead of building on their already strong foundation from last season, Tribe management decided to bolster their young talent. In the process they lost Kevin Millwood, Scott Elarton, Bob Howry, and Coco Crisp. These four players were instrumental to the Tribe’s success last year.

And what did they get in return?

Not nearly as much as they lost. They picked up Jason Johnson, a mediocre pitcher at best, who posted an unimpressive 4.54 Earned Run Average last year. Worse, his ERA against the Chicago White Sox was a dismal 6.46. They also acquired Paul Byrd, who pales in comparison to Scott Elarton, as the number five starter. Jason Michaels, a highly coveted young talent from Philadelphia, takes Coco Crisp’s place, but he has a long way to go.

Despite the acquisition of Guillermo Mota, one of the most highly lauded players this past off-season, the Tribe’s moves seem pathetic compared to what the White Sox did during their respite.

For starters, the Sox added Javier Vasquez, a crafty right-handed starter, to their already intimidating pitching rotation, which was the best in baseball last year. Then they bolstered their offense by resigning Paul Konerko to a long-term deal. Konerko hit 40 home runs and 100 Runs Batted In last year. But the coup de grace was signing Jim Thome, who already has been knocking the cover off the ball. And despite the loss of Damaso Marte, the Sox still have one of the most solid bullpens in baseball.

Perhaps I’m over analyzing the situation. After all, nobody thought the White Sox would be anything special last year, and they won the World Series. The Indians do still have the potential to be a major contender again this year. But this is Cleveland we’re talking about, and in my favorite city everything that can go wrong usually does. Oh well, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is kind of fun to visit. If nothing else, at least we’ve got that going for us.

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