June 16, 2005

Tribe Rolling With Grady

While I'm on something of a sports roll here, I have to acknowledge the recent play of the Cleveland Indians. I just watched them close out a sweep of the Rockies for their sixth straight win, and the eighth in nine games. I've been avoiding Tribe talk like the plague since the start of the season out of a mixture of embarrassment and dismay, since I boldly predicted a 90-win season and then watched them stagger out of the gate like the sub-500 team we've been watching for the last three years.

They didn't hit, so they didn't win early, so they didn't excite the the city and the fans, so they aren't drawing well. Three regulars, Blake, Boone and Martinez weren't able to hit their weight until just recently, and it would be stretching it to say that the slumps of Blake and Martinez are over. But the pitching has been stellar, the bullpen amazing, and the team has now crawled back to 34-30, and it does appear that some kind of corner has been turned.

90 wins seems like a long way off now, but if they can get to eight or nine games over .500 by the halfway point, I wouldn't bet against them repeating that performance in the second half to finish with say, 88 wins. Playoff talk is kind of unrealistic with two teams ahead of us in the division and a stronger than expected Baltimore team fighting it out with Boston and yes, New York in the East. But if the White Sox fade a little bit....

If some of my preseason statements were cockeyed, give me credit for getting something right. I was OK with the Juan Gonzalez signing, but not at the expense of playing time for Grady Sizemore. I thought last September that Sizemore had played his last minor league game, and it seemed crazy that in April he looked to be destined to start the season in AAA Buffalo. How insane does that notion seem now?

A quick look at the team statistics shows the 22-year old Sizemore leading the team in batting average(.309), hits(73), runs scored(33), RBI(30), triples(6), stolen bases(8), and total bases(112). You could make the case that it's easier to lead in all those categories on a team that collectively hasn't been hitting very well, but that would be to miss the point of how wildly improbable it is for a kid this green to be performing like this in his first full big league season.

On top of everything, he has been prospering in the leadoff spot, supposedly a high pressure role, and playing terrific defense in centerfield. There might be too much outfield competition in the AL for Grady to land the mandatory Indians spot on the All-Star team, but if he doesn't, it won't be because he hasn't been the team's best first half player.

Posted by dan at June 16, 2005 10:44 PM