Tonight’s the night!
Post-season baseball returns to Cleveland for the first time since the 2013 wild card game against Tampa Bay, and the Indians are in the American League Division Series for the first time since 2007.
Even though the Tribe has home field advantage as a result of having a better record during the regular season than their opponents, the Boston Red Sox, they are a decided underdog, particularly on a national basis.
Part of that is the loss of 2/5ths of Terry Francona’s starting rotation, with Carlos Carrasco down with a broken hand and Danny Salazar has a strain in his forearm. Neither will pitch in this series, and the hope is Salazar may be able to participate before the month ends.
The other part of this, is let’s face it, the Red Sox are jammed down the nation’s throat because it seems every matchup they have against the Yankees is televised across the universe.
Are you aware that David Ortiz is going to retire? If you aren’t, you could possibly be the most sheltered person on earth. Thank goodness, if the Indians can eliminate the Sox, we won’t have to hear about this anymore.
Of course, we are sure that one of the network’s covering post-season baseball will hire him as a “guest” analyst for the rest of the playoffs and World Series.
Even MLB Network has Pedro Martinez and Kevin Millar working for them. And it doesn’t take much for them to start reminiscing about 2004 and breaking “The Curse of the Bambino”.
That team was managed by the same guy who is in the home dugout tonight at Progressive Field. His name is Francona.
For most people around the country, Terry Francona is the most recognizable name among the Cleveland Indians. He’s put up four consecutive winning seasons and has made the playoffs twice with the Tribe, but his players don’t have the same “name” factor as the skipper.
We are sure much of the hype in the series will be about Tito coming back to Boston and that Mike Napoli will be playing against the same team he won a World Series with in 2013.
But this will be the network viewing audience’s first look at Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Jason Kipnis, and for that matter, Corey Kluber, who won the AL Cy Young Award in 2014.
Most of the nation’s baseball fans probably couldn’t pick these guys out of a lineup.
Besides Ortiz, Boston has former MVP Dustin Pedroia, and a bunch of young players who have been covered since arriving in the bigs: Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. (JBJ for those not in the know), and Xander Bogaerts.
No wonder, most experts don’t give the Tribe much of a chance, although they cover this with the caveat that you can’t possibly pick Cleveland without Carrasco and Salazar.
We are happy that most national guys are seeing how good Andrew Miller is, with several baseball media people calling him, not the Orioles’ Zack Britton, the best reliever in the game. Of course, Miller pitched in both New York and Boston, so he’s got that going for him.
Would we be shocked if the Tribe didn’t advance? No, as we wrote the other day, they are facing an uphill climb.
But this is baseball. Hopefully, the Cleveland Indians will give the national media some new baseball players to talk about…guys like “Frankie”, “Kip”, “Josey”, and the “Klubot”.