There are times when a two by four whacked upside the head makes an impression. Now before I’m inundated with a slew of critical letters for promoting violence, allow me to clarify by defining that as a metaphor. No one in their right mind would clobber anyone upside the head with a two by four - or would they?
However, to exploit that metaphor, albeit loosely, my record, not being particularly stellar, causes me to stop and think. I’m referring, of course, to my prognostications with sports; particularly Cleveland teams. Henceforth my dilemma.
Readers may recall past Tribe predictions. I’m sure you can imagine - me being the loyal baseball fan that I am, and particularly one for the Indians - I could never find it in my heart to say they’d fail to win it all.
After years of the Tribe burning me, mostly those years following the turn of the millennium, I prophesized annually that they’d go “all the way.” This gave me “wiggle” room if they failed. In time, though, I felt like a seasoned politician evading questions from the press, rather than a columnist dedicated to bringing only accurate prognostications to my readers.
And then with “fake news” becoming part of our lexicon, I knew I had to mend my ways. Confession may not even had helped - even if I had a priest who was also a DTF (Dedicated Tribe Fan). Had my confessor burdened my penance with multi-rosaries, I even doubt that could have blessed the Tribe.
Regardless, through all these efforts, a self-approved tradition materialized over the past 18 years and in that time it has become my objective not to break that ritual.
But the egg on my face was swiftly caking, and I knew I must do better. No longer could I risk the gods of baseball ignoring me by doing the exact opposite of what I predicted. After all, one can only accept so many rejections before applying for entry into a cloistered monastery. And so I thought long and hard over the winter about how I’d approach this year’s baseball. As my beloved Cleveland Indians season opened, I was still contemplating.
Much depends, I finally decided, on how three key players perform. Since pitching is the name of the game, I begin with Corey Kluber. First, the Klube must have a good year. Reaching 20 wins or close to it moves the Tribe from a sometimes contender to solid contender status.
Secondly, Michael Brantley. If this solid starter, a genuine star the last two full years he played, comes back and performs as he had in the past, it could indeed be a very interesting year for pretenders. Brantley is a proven leader, both in the clubhouse and on the field - something all teams need.
And thirdly, Andrew Miller. Switch him with Cody Allen. Miller should’ve been made the closer from the start. As a closer, Allen’s been too shaky this past year, and still is. A good example is last Wednesday against Toronto. Allen loads the bases and then gives up the winning hit. Make Allen a short term reliever. No bullpen pitcher is as solid in relief as Miller. It’s why we got him from the Yankees. Now let’s use him as a solid closer.
Finally, if anyone gets called up, it should be the 24 year old outfielder Bradley Zimmer from Class-AAA Columbus. The 21st overall pick in 2015, Zimmer has excelled and then some at every minor league team to which the Tribe assigned him. He has earned it and with his power potential, he might be able to help offensively.
Of course if they play other teams at home the same way they played Minnesota over the last weekend, the old “wait ‘til next year” chant could be heard early this season.
If not, and these three perform as expected, the Tribe could go “all the way.”
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