CLEVELAND - They dare to call Cleveland, "A Tribe Town." It is the marketing campaign for the 2013 Cleveland Indians. The line is blasphemy to some whose answer to all things that go wrong for the Browns and why they keep coming back is "Well, this is a Browns Town."
Not since the Indians wave of greatness in the mid-1990s have the Indians had some true optimism about what is going on at Carnegie and Ontario, outside of two seasons in the last decade.
Beer and hot dog prices are down and the Indians spending is up - at least it looks that way.
The Tribe's payroll on opening day in 2012 was $63,955,300. The payroll Tuesday night when the team takes the field in Toronto will be $66,430,300. It's not as much as the Yankees $195,998,004, but the Indians have a better record than the Bronx Bombers for at least one day, after they lost to the Red Sox.
So why be so happy about this edition of the Indians? First they have a legit manager. Terry Francona comes to the Indians knowing how to finish off the job. He won two World Series in Boston. He has lifted the curse of the Bambino, can he now lift the curse of Rocky Colavito? Players want to play for him, coaches want to coach for him. He is loved and respected in the clubhouse. It's where everything starts.
But with Francona comes a new attitude. Dare I say players want to play for the Indians. Free agents chose to come play in Cleveland.
Former Buckeye Nick Swisher gives the Indians a face for the franchise. He's the guy behind the Indians "Harlem Shake" video. Here's a fact: Swisher can play, and brings what this team needs, an attitude. He has been this way his entire career. Ask the folks at Ohio State. It's not a side show, it's the real show.
Add Mike Bourn too, the Indians catching a break in the offseason when the Twins started trading off centerfielders. It made the Braves speedster available for the Indians to pull it off at the right price.
But, the Indians need more. They will strikeout this season. Just be ready for it. But, they will score more runs than they did last year. Add Mark Reynolds and Drew Stubbs and this team is much more mature than they have been in years past. Plus, it takes the pressure off of Carlos Santana. He now knows he has some protection in the lineup. What is left is what should be left in the infield in Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Brantley, and Lonnie Chisenhall. All are a year older and wiser.
While bullpens feel flaky each and every year it's hard to argue with Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano, and Chris Perez in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings. But what is lost in translation is that that Indians picked up Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw from the Diamondbacks, along with Cody Allen and Nick Hagadone.
These are the reasons for hope in Cleveland this season. But, it is Cleveland after all. So the question marks fall on starting pitching. The difference between being the Indians from the past few years, and being a winner in the future rests in the arms of five guys.
Vegas and national prognosticators think the Indians are about a 77-win team. Fans think this is "A Browns Town."
Most of the pressure falls on Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers, Zach McAllister, and Scott Kazmir, the starting rotation. They are the ones that can make this "A Tribe Town."
Good luck - it all starts tonight in Toronto. If not, the NFL draft starts April 25.