By: T.J. Zuppe
That feeling you feel? Right now? I believe that is called excitement.
In Cleveland, it is not often we can take a step back and applaud an organization for doing a great job. Maybe we have been burned too many times. We have an extremely hard time embracing good things.
Or maybe our teams just do not do a good enough job of giving us a reason to stand and cheer. One can only be beaten down by constant losing for so long before they turn into a cynical monster.
We are all guilty of that. I blame it on words like “rebuilding” and “process.”
But when we do get the rare opportunity to give some credit, it is our responsibility to at least acknowledge it in some form. And like it our not, some credit is due.
The Cleveland Indians shocked everyone - including myself - when they signed one of the best free-agents on the market, outfielder Michael Bourn, to a four-year, $48-million dollar contract. Sure, the perfect storm was there for the Tribe to swoop in and land the 30-year old talented center-fielder, but it was foregone conclusion the money was not.
Or so we thought.
Somehow, against all odds, the front office of the Indians convinced the Dolans - the Dolans of all owners(!!) - to dip just a bit deeper into their pockets to land the coveted talent. For that, credit is most certainly due.
But for as shocking as it was when the news broke, we should not let that stop us from giving some sort of ovation to the ownership that is perceived as cheap by their fan base. Because, in this off-season, they’ve stepped up to the plate.
Sure, the Tribe will never be confused with the big spenders in Major League Baseball. In this market, it is real difficult to sustain that. However, spending should not be confused with accountability, something that had been lacking in recent years.
Most fans understand it would be nearly impossible to rank in the top ten of the MLB in salaries, even more unlikely to be there consistently in Cleveland. But not one fan wants to hear about the number of days spent in first place. They want to know how you are going about being there when the season ends.
That is where this off-season began, the Dolans giving the thumbs up to spend extra on a new manager, bringing in one of the most well-respected men in the game, Terry Francona. Francona brought respectability and credibility to an organization that was short on that according to many around the game.
And with the salaries of DH Travis Hafner, outfielder Grady Sizemore, pitcher Derek Lowe, among others coming off the books, the Dolans again gave the green light for general manager Chris Antonetti to infuse the roster with talent, the same way Francona infused the team with energy.
And away they went.
One off-season later, the Tribe emerged with two of the best free-agents on the open market, Bourn and Nick Swisher. They spent the extra cash to add some depth to the rotation in Brett Myers and added power in Mark Reynolds. They traded outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to clear the way for a top-notch pitching prospect in Trevor Bauer and outfielder Drew Stubbs.
And sure, they did a little dumpster diving in picking up DH Jason Giambi and pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Scott Kazmir. Old habits die hard.
But what was created was a team that got the fans excited for baseball in this town.
Sure, the payroll for 2013 is not astronomical compared to the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers or even Detroit Tigers. Heck, it really is not even that much higher than it was in 2012.
Still, a great deal of financial assets were tied up into trying to change the stale culture surrounding Indians baseball. Indeed, it looks like this ownership and front office is trying to win now.
Will it work? Who knows. It has been proven time and time again, what looks good on paper does not always translate to the field. There are still plenty of questions to be answered this season - most of them in the pitching staff.
But at least they are trying.
Credit is due to a Tribe front office that has taken it’s lumps lately - and rightfully so.
But in a land of Cleveland teams looking at a constant rebuild, the Indians organization stepped up and tried something new - attempted to build a winner, right now. And for that, at least this time, they deserve a tip of the cap.
|T.J. Zuppe covers the Cleveland Indians for ESPN 850 WKNR. Catch TJ on The Hooligans weekdays from 3:00p.m.-6:00p.m. on ESPN 850 WKNR.|
Follow TJ on Twitter @TJZuppe
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