Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Under the Radar

Unbeknownst to most of America (and apparently most of Cleveland, as many tickets for next week’s series against Detroit remain), the Indians now stand a mere 2 ½ games behind the Red Sox in the race for the best record in the AL, and all of MLB. Their Magic Number to clinch (12) matches that of the Angels in terms of having the lowest number of cumulative wins, coupled with losses by the 2nd place team, to ensure a divisional title.

Why has this information escaped the everyday sports (and even baseball-centric) fan?

Because, according to most published reports and national broadcasts, the Red Sox and Yankees continue to fight it out for the right to represent the AL in the World Series. Despite results on the field that dictate otherwise, the preoccupation with the idea that meaningful baseball doesn’t happen outside the East Coast has not only taken over that network with 4 letters, it’s become the accepted line of thinking across the country.

Ask a baseball fan who Rafael Perez (54 1/3 IP, 1.49 ERA, 0.90 WHIP) is and see the blank stare that you get.
Now try Joba Chamberlain (14 1/3 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.77 WHIP).
Ask a baseball fan who Asdrubal Cabrera (.849 OPS, 3 HR, 16 RBI in 99 AB) is, then Dustin Pedroia (.843 OPS, 7 HR, 47 RBI in 459 AB).

The notion that the Yankees vs. Red Sox in the ALCS is some sort of rite of Autumn is so ingrained in the national consciousness that it fails to take into account that neither team has made the ALCS in the past two years…despite growing payroll and nauseating media coverage.

You know what, though?
That’s fine with me.
After years of frustration about the lack of knowledge (or even caring to know anything) and dearth of coverage from the national media about the Indians and their promise, I’m HAPPY that the Indians aren’t getting any kind of attention. Sure, Peter Gammons (perhaps the last truly knowledgeable person in Bristol) has devoted his last few columns to C.C. and how the Indians (and the Angels) are probably better suited for a playoff run than the “elite” of the AL East.

But, who cares?
Let Indians’ highlights show up in the last ½ of recap shows, let the Indians build up a giant chip on their shoulder to feel underappreciated and underexposed. Let the Red Sox go into the playoffs with giant expectations and watch the Indians play the perceived role of David (however inaccurate that may be) with Sabathia, Carmona, and Westbrook manning the proverbial slingshots.

And while you think that the lack of coverage or respect is just national, watch a local sports broadcast. The Indians are getting as much press locally as they were last year, when they were afterthoughts in the AL Central race. During the Indians-Tigers series (when the Tribe took 2 of 3) about a month ago, the lead story on most 6 PM sports segments was…Brady Quinn’s new haircut.

Despite the fact that the Browns have become irrelevant (once again) before the start of Week 2, the trade of Charlie Frye (how talent evaluation and organizational confusion can result in the starting of a QB, then trading him in less than 48 hours is beyond comprehension) and the Romeo Crennel Death Watch are the topics of conversation on Clevelanders’ lips.

Yet the Cleveland media keeps sitting, waiting, and wishing for the Indians to fall apart, ready to pounce on the Dolans, Shapiro and Wedge if the Ghost of 2005 rears its ugly head and sabotages the Tribe’s playoff push. While the waiting continues, the Indians remain an afterthought in the city, somehow still transfixed by yet another Browns’ debacle and the ensuing mess.

You have to wonder if the average Clevelander knows much about the current incarnation of the Tribe and the roll they find themselves on. You can almost picture Garko and Michaels going into a bar and letting on that they play for the Indians. The scene would mirror that of the dinner party from Major League:
Cleveland Bandwagoneer: You play for the Indians? You mean, here…in Cleveland. I didn’t know we still had a team. I thought the team disbanded when Thome, Omar, and Manny left.
Garko: No. We’re still here and it’s really great. We’ve got uniforms and everything. We’re actually in 1st place.

But, again, who cares?
Let the bandwagoneers fill up on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario with people who will break their Tribe gear out of mothballs after 10 years of sitting in their closet. Let the Tribe “fans” hop on for the ride.
We’ve been on this ride for a while and it’s been a hell of a lot of fun.

Who cares if nobody else has noticed this, or if everyone’s attention is diverted elsewhere?

See the perceived disrespect fuel The Hefty Lefty and his boys through October.
You can almost hear C.C. saying, “We’re not sneaking up on anybody. We knew we were this good. I told you that we would win the division. I told you we were a good team. It’s YOU who didn’t care to know that we ARE this good...and that’s on you, not me”

The Indians aren’t surprising anyone who’s been paying attention and the fun is only beginning.


vbc3 said...

Bravo and amen to that.

I can't believe nearly half the seats for the games against the Tigers next week are still unsold as I write this. Incredible. A couple of weeks ago, I was too broke to afford tickets and figured the chances of landing seats to this series at the last minute would be infinitesimal. Now, it looks like I'll be heading down there just to show these guys that some of us do care and do appreciate what a great ride this season has been (and promises to be after the end of the month).

If nothing else, next week could be our last chance to take in a good game before the postseason bandwagon pulls in and you are surrounded by people who apparently spent $150 a seat so they can call all of their friends and yammer "HAAAAY BRO, I AM AT THE INDIANS GAME!!!!" at them for 3 hours.

Hell, I might even violate my own personal dress sense and find something red to wear ... :)

Steve said...

I know what you mean about the lack of ticket sales.

About a month ago I invited an elderly gentleman who lives down the street from me to go to a game. He said he'd prefer a day game not on a weekend. (What the heck, the guy probably goes to bed at 5:00pm.) I picked the Tiger game for Wednesday the 19th.

It's a long story, but since then I have been seriously ill. I'm supposed to get the latest lab results tomorrow.

Feeling a little better over this past weekend, I finally got around to ordering the tickets. This whole past month I had figured that we'd be out of luck - surely this series would be sold out, right?

Getting the tickets was a breeze, and assuming I'm still alive I'll be there to possibly watch us clinch the division.

On a side note, how many people who have been calling for Wedge's head all year are going to feel foolish when he's named Manager Of The Year? :-D

rick grayshock said...

Steve- said a prayer for your health. Second- don't think the wedgie master will be named manager of the year, just a hunch. You are right about most Clevelanders probably not knowing who Perez, or Cabrera, or Lewis, or Laffey, or maybe even Fausto are. They certainly couldn't pick them out of a line-up. But they knew who Julian Tavarez was. They knew who Manny and Thome were before they were stars.

But try not to focus on the negative. I for one live 3 hours away from Cleveland. I've been to a game this year, but it costs me $55 in gas alone to get to a game nowadays. Not to mention having to miss some work to get there in time for the game. It's hard for some of us to go regularly. But there are plenty of people that should be able to go when they want to. The place did sell out a few times in the 90'2.

Jason said...

This makes surviving the offensive desert from the ASB to mid-August seem less painful now, doesn't it?

Back in May I was predicting the Tribe would play the Red Sox in the ALCS, but now it looks like it might be in the first round. Of course, if the Tribe overtakes the Sox then they will get the Yanks in the first round, right? Hopefully it will be time to exorcise the 0-6 demons from this season.

All I can say is that if it comes down to a save situation in game 7 of the WS I'd like to see CC come out of the 'pen on 2 days' rest to close it out.

Why can the Indians have a great team with no support but the pathetic Browns will sell out every game?

Ron Vallo said...

As a Clevelander living in NY your latest post really struck a chord. I've been listening to NY fans and talk radio hosts talk about how "huge" it is that the Yanks get Cleveland in the first round and not the Angels.

The Yankee play-by-play guy said the Tribe looked like a Triple-A team when the Yanks were last in town (there is some truth to that) and everyone here thinks a Tribe series is just what the Yanks need to propel them to the ALCS.

If you want to be insulted and infuriated, I've written about this on my own blog. Hope you don't mind me plugging (since you already have it linked on your site). To anyone interested, check it out at www.tribefanyankeeland.blogspot.com

henzo said...

Amen, my friend.

gilbert said...

As an Angels fan, I agree with what you have to say and feel similarly about my team (though you guys get even less attention than the Angels).

Here's to an Angels-Indians ALCS.

TD said...

Great Piece and Great to see you linked on the best of all the sports blogs, Deadspin... I am a fellow Cleveland Sports Blogger who writes similar stuff. Check out my site http://www.myteamsarecursed.blogspot.com

buu said...

from a cleveland expatriate living knee deep in "yankees/sawks" territory, cheers.
theyd better be selling sabathia shirts in the jacob's field team shop by now.
go tribe.

Voltaire said...

Looking at the schedule, it looks highly likely that the Tribe will clinch at some point during the Oakland series. I'm already going to one Royals game and one Tigers game. Looks like I'll have to add an A's game.

This team has been fun to watch all year long. The depth of the team is incredible. But best of all, it's clear that they're having fun, and that's what makes following this team so entertaining.

Let's go Tribe!

rodells said...

Steve, hope all is going well.

I'm really not sure where you are coming from if you are going to defend any of the stupid things Wedge has done this year, especially when the team was spiraling downward. That's where my Wedge bashing lies. He's not always been a great in game manager and it showed alot at times this year.

None of us really know whether or not Wedge has been the key ignitor to this great run we're currently riding since the Yankees series. Alot of times managers are at the players mercy, hell make that most of the time. But when a manager makes stupid decisions in game situations and says dumb things in post game interviews, he shouldn't just be given a free pass by everyone.

It's also a good thing the Tigers played crappy baseball when we were absolutely horrible, and that now they have just been treading water not able to gain ground.

I'll just end this by saying it's wonderful that Romeo doesn't coach the Indians.

Voltaire said...

I just want to jump back in quickly to say that it is a sad fact that the fans will always hate the manager, regardless of the team's record. Very unfortunate, but not exclusive to the Tribe or this year's team. Or sport, even.

Baltimoran said...

Quoted in the Terry Pluto article

"I've been to 10-12 games this season," emailed Mark Cousineau of South Euclid. "I was talking to a fan who kept saying, 'What a great team, I don't know why the ballpark isn't packed like it used to be.' To which, I asked how many games has he been to this year -- he said, "None, it's too expensive."

...i think that kid worked at the South Euclid pools back in the day, his older brother was a bit of a jerk though

Deana said...

great post.

Off-topic, here's a stat I'd like to see, for clutch-hitting. What percentage of Astrubal's home runs were in innings 7 or later? I'd guess well over 50%. What percentage of them changed the game's lead, including to or from a tie? Again, I'd guess most. Same stats for Pronk? Dismally low, I'd guess, at least until about 2 weeks ago. David S, DC

Cy Slapnicka said...

Huge jerk. I vaguely remember hiding under his parents stairs when the cops were there one time.

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