CLEVELAND - Fun.
No, this story isn't a nod to the Grammy-winning indie pop group that made everyone feel young (at least for a couple minutes with the car radio on and windows down) or a day riding coasters at Cedar Point.
It's about Cleveland sports - yeah that's right, Cleveland sports - and more specifically Indians baseball.
In a matter of months, the Indians have gone from impotent to wildly intriguing and dare I say it, fun.
After another sluggish season in 2012, it was easy to be downtrodden with a team that hasn't reached the playoffs since 2007 and ownership that showed no real commitment to winning.
That has all changed this offseason.
New manager Terry Francona isn't just a winner, he's a World Series champion and a curse-busting one in Boston. That trait doesn't hurt for a franchise that hasn't won a World Series since 1948.
Nick Swisher is a strong regular season player who boasts a consistently high on-base percentage and has been part of playoff teams six of the past seven years. He also has a ring as a member of the Yankees.
Bringing in Swisher alone was not enough to revitalize an offense that was one of baseball's worst last season. The signing of outfielder Michael Bourn Monday, however, was a real step toward building a legitimate top-to-bottom lineup that can put the Indians in the playoff mix.
While a typically reliable player, Swisher had never faced the burden of being "the guy." In New York, he was supported by a bevy of sluggers all around him in the lineup. He wasn't hitting in the cleanup hole with the pressure of being the main run producer.
Now, he has more help in Cleveland too.
Bourn has a proven track record of improving teams. Just look at his WAR, wins above what a replacement player would add, for proof of that.
In each of the past four seasons, Bourn has registered a WAR of a positive value, 6.0 last season in Atlanta. That's all-star level, according to the scale of BaseballProjection.com's Sean Smith.
It also means Bourn added 6 more wins to the record of the 2012 Braves, a National League wild card team.
Looking at that stat again, Swisher gave the Yankees, the AL East champion, 3.5 more wins than a replacement.
Defense is another area where they'll provide an upgrade. In 2012, the Indians' outfield of Shelley Duncan, Michael Brantley and Shin-Soo Choo cost them 17 runs, according to fan graphs' DRS (defensive runs saved) stats. Replacing Duncan and Choo with Swisher and Bourn takes that number out of the red and becomes 23 defensive runs saved.
For a team that was second worst in baseball in run differential last season (-178), that 40 run swing is a step in the right direction after years of troubled outfield trios.
But let's get away from numbers on paper that do not mean all that much when you're deciding whether or not to spend your hard-earned money on a night out at Progressive Field.
The 2013 Indians have become a whole lot more watchable, which for Cleveland sports the past few years is something to be excited about.
Browns Stadium has rightfully been coined a "factory of sadness," fun so fleeting that Pat Shurmur about went into cardiac arrest from excitement after blowing out the worst team in football this season.
Kyrie Irving has become a very entertaining commodity but when it comes down to wins and losses the most fun derived from the Cavs recently has been watching how the lottery balls fall.
Fact is, since LeBron James bolted for South Beach in the summer of ‘10, Cleveland sports have not been very fun. Indians baseball hasn't since they choked away the 2007 ALCS.
Watching bad teams lose is rough. When they're boring too, it's flat out miserable.
Winning is always the goal but how about some fun at least along the way too?
Swisher is incredibly likeable, an Ohio-native who interacts with fans from his outfield perch and plays with grit. Bourn is a dynamo who can kick start a rally with his speed on the base pads, 40+ steals in each of the past six seasons and a massive 61 twice in that time.
Maybe, just maybe, the dog days are over. Pitching remains a question mark but born anew are these Indians, making moves and putting together a viable offense.
It's a fun concept - well worth spending some nights at the ballpark.
CLEVELAND - Fun.