DETROIT, MI - I know 35 games does not make a season but while we are all riding this Indians high of nine wins over the last eleven games that has propelled the tribe into first place, one has to think back to how the off season moves of team General Manager Chris Antonetti has been a huge factor in the run.
If you need proof Indians fans just take a look back at Sunday's 4-3 win over the Detroit Tigers that was fueled by players picked up by Antonetti in the teams 117 million dollar spending spree on free agents that included the likes of Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds and Michael Bourn. You can also add in the smaller contracts of Jason Giambi (750,000), and Mike Aviles (2.25M) and you have the makings of an early first place visit.
Let's go back to Sundays game, Indians down 3-2 in the ninth inning, Bourn leads off the inning and steals second base, two outs later 43 year old Giambi pinch hitting for Drew Stubbs draws a huge two out walk to keep the inning alive. Michael Brantley delivered a two out single to left that scores Michael Bourn and here is where the Antonetti factor comes in.
The Indians needed speed at the top of the lineup, Michael Bourn proved him right by scoring easily on the base knock, something that would not have happened a year ago. Think about it, name one Indians player on last years squad that would have scored from second on a short single to left with a charging fielder coming on to make that throw. Bourn forced the throw offline and then one inning later, free agent Mark Reynolds singled in what would be the game winning run for a 4-3 win and a first place tie with the Tigers.
If you are keeping score, the Tigers payroll is at 149M, the fifth largest payroll in baseball, the Indians are at 82M or 67M less then the team that spends more money then any team in the Central Division over the last 5 years. I am not ready to award the division to the Indians but tribe fans have begged the team to spend money for years and this off season they did.
This offseason spending spree was all calculated by Chris Antonetti. He went out and got speed and a leadoff hitter in Michael Bourn. He added power in Swisher and Reynolds and he resisted trading core players like Cabrera,Santana and Brantley to make it all happen.
Sunday's series clinching win over the divisions best team is just a small win at the early portion of the season, but it also signals that the Indians can compete with divisions big boys.
The team must still address the starting rotation. Justin Masterson has been outstanding 5-2 with a 3.67 ERA. He has been the teams dominant number one starter but after that your guess is as good as mine. Brett Myers has been the biggest disappointment, when you pay out seven million dollars a year you better get something back. Myers is 0-3 with an 8.32 ERA and on the disabled list, not what you want from your number three guy. Ubaldo Jimenez has been as up and down as a Cedar Point ride but has pitched well of late, the bullpen has been solid as expected.
This season for the Indians has a lot of twists and turns left in it but what you have to like about this years Indians team so far, Chris Antonetti was given the green light to spend and right now, he leads the majors in home runs, because he has hit many of those with the offseason moves he has made and right now they are paying off.
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