Thursday, November 26, 2009

Four Cleveland Indians to Give Thanks For

It's Thanksgiving here at the Reservation, and when you are a fan of any Cleveland team, it can be quite the chore to find something or someone not named LeBron to be thankful for. I've always looked at my 38-year tenure as a Cleveland fan as a road less traveled, as Robert Frost used to say. It's never really been about the destination, but over the years, this passion for the Indians and Ohio sports has been more about the moment.

A good example of this happened just yesterday. I was driving home from a torturous trip to the store to purchase the last parts of today's grand feast. I turned on the radio, and Tesla's 1990 re-make of 'Signs' came on. The song kicks off with the now infamous line,
"Well the sign said long-haired freaky people need not apply, so I put all my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why."
No, I've never had particularly long hair, and I'm not a Tesla groupie, but that song brought back one of my finest moments as an Indians fan: Game 6 of the 1995 ALCS that saw the Indians beat the supernatural Randy Johnson to send the Tribe to the World Series for the first time since I was born.

The Indians scored three runs in the eighth off Johnson to put the game away, and as the crowd at the Kingdome was silenced, the camera panned up to the crowd, and in the middle of several Mariners fans was a sign for the hippy-ish Randy Johnson. It said simply, "Long-Haired Freaky People Need Not Apply." Classic.

Will the journey ever end with a title? Sadly, it doesn't seem likely. So enjoy the moments Tribe fans, and you never know when it will pay off with a title at the end of the journey.

Until then, here's four Indians' items to give thanks for:

First and foremost, I'd like to give thanks to Sandy Alomar Jr. The day the Indians dealt Joe Carter to San Diego for the much talked about future-star, he became one of my favorite players. He never really developed into the player he could have been because of all the injuries, but his blend of offensive and defensive potential, combined with his pure joy to play the game, made him a symbol of those 90's teams. A lot of people are shrugging off the fact that he's from those 90's teams, but I'm not one of them. The fact that Alomar Jr. is a great coach is secondary here. Alomar brings back that feeling.

I'm actually surprised I'm going to say this, but I'd like to next thank Manny Acta. I'm not afraid to admit that I didn't want the Indians to hire Acta. I, like most, didn't know a lot about him, and hiring a guy from the worst team in baseball doesn't make a whole lot of sense when your the fourth worst team in baseball. Still, for the past month, Acta has sounded like the manager Tribe fans have been looking for since Chah-lie Manuel left seven years ago. He's smart, personable and saying all the right things. Shapiro even looks smart getting him out into the media spotlight. They obviously hired a guy that could win 'the room.' Still, that's not why I want to say thanks for Acta. It comes down to this for me: Manny Acta wants to put out the same lineup every day. There wasn't a bigger criticism from me over the years for one Eric Wedge. His constant shuffling destroyed this team. The only time he employed a relatively cemented lineup was the second half of 2007, when the Indians nearly went to the World Series. This could be the single biggest move that Acta makes, and can control.

My third thanks goes to Asdrubal Cabrera, the Cleveland Indians sublime shortstop. Cabrera's role in solidifying the Indians in 2007 is often overlooked, but I couldn't help thinking that Cabrera's hot streak that year was just that, a streak. My hopes for Cabrera were simple, be the fantastic defender that you're supposed to be, and everything else is frosting. Well, now it's safe to say that Asdrubal is a whole lot more than that defensive whiz. It will be real interesting to watch this kid develop, especially with speed batting in front of him, and protection behind him. Perhaps Cabrera will be more Jeter than Vizquel.

Finally, I'd like to give thanks for the Indians top prospect,Carlos Santana. There is nothing about Santana that isn't exciting, starting with the Indians trading Casey Blake for the future-star. The Indians have had fantastic prospects before, but there is something about Santana that seems bigger. If he pans out, and we still don't know if he will, he could be the face of this franchise for years to come. Bottom line with Santana is that he provides this team with hope, and if you've seen the Indians play the past two years, that's not a commodity many of us are familiar with.

Have a fantastic Thanksgiving Tribe Fans! Enjoy your time with your family and friends. Have fun watching the Raiders and Lions today, wondering how it happened that the two laughingstock franchises in the NFL are better than the Browns.

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