Reporting Matt Loede
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Terry Francona, Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Mark Reynolds, a deal for Drew Stubbs and Trevor Bauer.
For Indians fans, those names mark what they hope is a new start to a franchise that sorely needed it.
Paul Dolan and his family finally opened up the pocketbook, and the fans message that was felt last season during an awful second half swoon was clearly felt.
While the makeover seems just about complete for now, there’s still a burning question that is going to simply have to wait until the season starts to be answered completely – are the Indians truly contenders?
“We have no excuses now as a team,” Chris Perez said Tuesday in Goodyear, “at least in my opinion.”
While the players may be starting to believe, it’s not going to start to be able to be shown until April 2nd, when the team takes the field in Toronto, with many curious eyes around baseball will be looking on.
This is a team that suddenly looks like it can win, and while many felt the team would be better just with the direction of Francona and the signings of players like Swisher and Reynolds, not many felt they would be real contenders.
With the second largest contract in team history, and by many accounts the signing of one of the top five free agents in baseball raises the stakes to a totally new level.
Bourn is not only expected to make the Indians better, but is expected to add the speed dynamic to an outfield that some are saying could be the best in all of baseball in terms of defense.
So back to the original question – is this team a contender?
Pitching will have a lot to do with that, but consider the 2001 season, a year in which the starting five in the rotation combined to go just 53 and 41.
By the way – that team won 91 games and a division title.
This team might not have a 2001 Jim Thome, who that season hit 49 homers and drove in 124 runs, but they do have a better hitting shortstop from that season (Omar Vizquel hit a middle of the road .255), catcher (Einar Diaz hit .277 with 4 homers and 56 RBI), and third basemen (Travis Fryman hit just four homers and .263).
A playoff run with a first-year manager and two of the top five free agents (Swisher and Bourn) along with a new confidence and energy can for sure make this team into something special.
If the starting pitching holds any kind of water with Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez at the top, and the offense doesn’t have prolonged slumps like we saw in the Manny Acta era, this team has the true ability to make some noise.
It wont’ be easy, with Detroit coming off a World Series run, the Royals looking like a much better young team, and Chicago licking their wounds after a September collapse, but the Indians now have the foundation that truly looks like they can win.
The past few seasons the slogan for the Tribe has been “What If.” Maybe in 2013 the team should take on a slogan that is simple, yet points the franchise into its new direction.
“Yes, We Can.”