No longer in rebuild mode, the Indians have solid foundation
OCT 07, 2013 11:07p ET
The improbable run that the Indians made down the stretch did just the opposite of what we're used to. Instead of winding down, we were gearing up -- for playoff baseball in Cleveland. It was great.
Then it was over. Just like that.
Indians manager Terry Francona said it's hard to describe the feelings that come at the end of each season. "It feels like you're going 100 mph and all the sudden you come to a crashing halt. Everything you've done for the past nine months just goes out the window and you have to start a whole different cycle to get ready for next year."
Sounds like quite an emotional roller coaster -- fitting for this team in particular.
"There were a lot of ups and downs but we endured the downs and it gave us a chance to get to a one-game playoff," Francona said. "But we lost and it stung."
Not many people expected the Indians to go .500, let alone win 92 games and advance to the postseason as the top-seeded A.L. Wild Card. But somehow night after night, the Indians found different ways to win. There was always a different hero and it seemed like there was often a dramatic ending -- whether it was Matt Carson's pinch-hit walk-off, Jason Giambi's most improbable comeback home run, or Ubaldo Jimenez pitching the team into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season. Even Francona himself seems a little surprised at what his team accomplished this season, which he says is one of the best feelings in the world.
"I love the way we won," Francona said. "We won using everybody. And you're damn right it felt good. At one point we had Ryan Raburn batting cleanup and I got a kick out of it. If you didn't almost cry when Giambi hit that walk-off homer, then you're not human. Heck yea, it was very gratifying and I loved it."
Looking back on the success of the season, it's hard to put a finger on one single thing this team did exceptionally well. As each player stands alone, it's hard to quantify a team with 92 wins. But collectively, the 2013 Indians were a pretty good ball club. Can they do it again next year, especially with free agency looming for some of the team's key players?
Tito said it's still too early to look ahead.
"There's time to look at what's going to happen between now and when things start. If you compared where we were last year to where we are now there's a lot of reason for optimism."
Going into the season, the most glaring need was starting pitching and it wound up becoming the strength of the team. Over the past nine months we've seen a core of talented pitchers develop and it's been exciting to watch. Hitters actually fear facing Indians pitchers. When is the last time that happened?
Of course they'll have some holes to fill once they lose Jimenez and Scott Kazmir, who will both be free agents when the MLB off-season officially begins. The team might have a shot at re-signing Kazmir, but Ubaldo Jimenez will surely move on to 'greener' pastures.
Francona doesn't seem too worried about the possibility of losing two of their best pitchers, mainly because of the depth they now have at the position.
"We have Justin Masterson coming back we know he's healthy. We've got Danny Salazar for a full year, that's exciting. We have Corey Kluber who literally grew up right in front of our eyes and turned into one of the better pitchers in the league. We have Zach McAllister, who just keeps getting better. We want to create innings for Carlos Carrasco, that's what we think of him. We have Trevor Bauer who we are desperately wanting to see get to the next level."
And to think one year ago, we were listening to Manny Acta compare the Indians needs to a long grocery list. "It's not like going to the store and grabbing a can of tomato sauce," Acta said.
Ironically, Terry Francona left us today with this fitting quote, "The cupboard isn't bare."
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