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Indians win 10th straight with sweep in Detroit

Is Cleveland rocking or what? With their tenth win in a row over Detroit last night the Indians have effectively increased their chances of finishing above .500 for the season. Of course it’s not the goal they set out to achieve at the beginning of the season but considering they traded away several solid starters and fell victim to the injury bug I am happy with the direction of the team. There are a few questions in my head however.

Cleveland Indians hats & merchandiseQuestion #1: What will become of Travis Hafner? Pronk became one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball but this year (and the second half of 2007) seemed ineffectual in determining the outcome of a game. A .217 average this year compared to a .290 career average begs this writer to ask what’s up Pronk? Yes, yes, I know the injury. Shoulder problems are not easy to recover from, especially for someone who swings the lumber so viciously. Will the Indians return him to the show this year or keep him in rehab at triple-A? If the Indians are to be successful next year they need their DH back hitting for power and driving in runs. Let us hope that his body has a few more prime years left.

Question #2: Will Cliff Lee secure the AL Cy Young award? It’s hard for him not to get the honor considering he most likely will lead the league (and maybe MLB) in wins and ERA. His 19 wins are three more than Mike Mussina, Roy Halladay, and AJ Burnett who are tied for second in wins. The three tied for second are also in the similar position of not being on playoff teams. Want more? He only has two losses for the year which, with his 19 wins, makes him only the eighth pitcher in history to win 19 of his first 21 decisions. If you look at the list of players, only three of which have done it since I was born, you’ll see one glaring difference; and that is each pitcher on the list, with the exception of Lee, was on a playoff team. The other contender for the award is Daisuke Matsuzaka who has a 15-2 record with an ERA one close-play-at-the-plate below three. At least Cleveland baseball fans have something to look forward to down the stretch in watching Lee hopefully continue to throw gems.

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Question #3: Who would the Grady’s Lady’s fan club vote for in a beauty contest: him or Wesley Snipes? This year Grady has resembled Willy Hayes from Major League 2 with his continued rise to super-star status and surge in power. I can’t tell the difference. He is on pace for a year-over-year increase in slugging percentage of 60 points, on pace to beat his ’07 homerun total by 33%, he’s already stolen more bases than last year, he will have to strike out twice per day in September to match ’07, and he could legitimately drive in 100 runs. Shhh, don’t tell Mr. Shapiro these stats. We want Grady in an Indians uniform at least until we can get more top prospects for him.

Question #4: If the Indians still had CC Sabathia, Casey Blake, and Paul Byrd would they now be in contention for a wild card spot instead of pushing for .500? Since leaving the Tribe each has done very well for their new teams. Team management decided to throw the towel in early this year and even a ten-game winning streak cannot make me feel better about these three guys being on playoff contenders.

Too little too late for the Tribe are what the headlines will read but what they might consider as the Indians finish strong is Should Have, Could Have, Would Have, But Didn’t. For now the depth chart is littered with backups and minor leaguers; and our ace is pitching the best of his career in a non-playoff year. I wrote off the Tribe this year with the trade of CC Sabathia, just as you may have done, but now I think a strong finish without half the starters will give me a feeling of success. They are 18-7 this month, they are 10 ½ games back, and only a fool would think they have a chance of making the playoffs. Looking at the Twins and the White Sox schedules gives me hope. The White Sox face the Indians six times in September as well as series with the Twins and the Angels, not to mention a weekend series starting tomorrow against the Red Sox. The Twins face a fairly softer schedule than the White Sox and it is definitely a long shot for the Tribe to make the post-season. I’m not heading to Vegas to place a bet but stranger things have happened.


By Lee Reser
Cleveland Indians Correspondent

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