By Rob Kotaska
It is early, sure. But the calendar has turned to May, and my baseball team, the Cleveland Indians are in first place in the AL Central. They are ahead of the Midwestern version of Yankees-Lite, the Detroit Tigers, ahead of the chic pre-season pick the Kansas City Royals…and ahead of the ChiSox and Twinkies. How? Well given that the Tribe can’t get their way onto a national broadcast your guess is as good as mine.
I’ve taken to box score watching, which is less thrilling than it sounds. That practice gives you a snapshot, but lacks in any real feeling of connection or nuance. The day-to-day boxes, even with their cumulative totals, lack.
Looking at the season stats it is hard to believe that this squad is in first place. The top average on the team is held by Travis Hafner, who while improved from the past few seasons is half a Pronk at best. Three home runs is enough to give Carlos Santana the lead for the squad who has a whopping 16 on the season. Jack Hannahan, RBI leader? That is not the stuff of first place teams, except when it is.
And the pitching…ugh. Ubaldo Jimenez was not worth my defense. He is who Jim Tracy thought he was. Damn. Justin Masterson has some heat, but little else. He has been knocked around early and often. Who has led this squad?
38-year-old Derek Lowe. He is 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA. At 15 million a year he is worth it, at least to this point. He brings hope, until you consider his batting average against. Fans of the Tribe better hope that the two pitchers mentioned in the prior paragraph get it going. Mr. Lowe has a .282 batting average against. Two of his wins are against the Royals. Three of the four wins are against teams that are in the bottom three of batting average in the AL so far. How are they that low when they faced Mr .282?
As Jim Rome is prone to say in the end it is all about “Scoreboard”, or in this case “Standings”. The Tribe sits on top of the AL Central at the time of this being published at 11-9. Better than I hoped, but I know in the end it will be not nearly good enough. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts…