Cleveland (92.3 The Fan) – Coming off of a World Series bid or not, the home opener at Progressive Field is a holiday in Cleveland each season.
The team could be coming off of a 94-67 season or a 67-94 year, and the park would be filled to capacity, as it will be on Tuesday.
Luckily for fans in attendance, Game 7 of the season and Game 1 at Progressive Field will be the biggest game for the Indians since the last held there, also a Game 7 if you might recall.
Common thought says that each team wins 60 games and loses 60, but the other 42 are the ones that matter. That did not apply to the Twins and Cubs last season, who lost and won 59 games respectively.
What is more likely to be a sure thing than 60-60-42 is the idea that the most division wins for a team normally wins said division.
That’s a little more simple a concept, no?
For instance, last season, every division winner in baseball led their respective division within itself, aside from the Dodgers. Los Angeles also had the fewest wins for a division winner at 91, with the 87-win Giants reaching a wild card spot. San Francisco was 45-31 against the NL West, while the Dodgers went 43-33.
The 2015 Rangers were the only team in baseball that year to win their division without the top record in their division.
The 2017 Indians enter the season as the favorite to win the American League, and heavy favorites to win the AL Central, not just because of their own power, but the paths of the rest of the team in the division.
The Minnesota Twins, who entered Monday at a division-leading 5-1, are coming off of that 59-win season still outside of their window for contention. Barring an unprecedented leap and a continuation of their 2 ER per game pace to this point, do not expect them to be in the picture.
The Kansas City Royals are still a formidable threat, despite selling off some key assets in the off-season. They were swept by the Twins to start the year.
The Detroit Tigers are expected to be the Indians’ biggest threat between their three all-start caliber starting pitchers — Justin Verlander, Jordan Zimmerman and 2016 Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer – and four top-flight hitters – Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton and Victor Martinez.
The Chicago White Sox, the first of the four division rivals to enter Progressive Field, are in the middle of a rebuild as well, and are expected to sell off Cy Young contender Jose Quintana, who has allowed 8 ER over 11 2/3 innings in his first two starts.
With a division team in town and a division that should be theirs to lose, Progressive Field should be sold out for all three games of the White Sox series, if not beyond. They may be the most important games in Cleveland – other than those taking place at the Q – until May 12th.
Being swept by a team largely not considered to be in contention in the winnable NL-West only heightens that fact.