We're going to the end of the line
If you didn’t know any better (and some people don’t), you’d think very little has changed since March 31, 2008.
Here, on the final day of the season, the Indians are still playing the White Sox, and their lineup still includes Grady Sizemore in CF, Travis Hafner at DH, Victor Martinez at C, Jhonny Peralta at SS, Ryan Garko at 1B, Asdrubal Cabrera at 2B and Franklin Gutierrez in RF. On the surface, the only changes are Ben Francisco in for Jason Michaels in LF, and Jamey Carroll in for Casey Blake at 3B.
Talk about stability.
And then you look at the following list of players who have donned the Tribe uniform at various points of ’08, and you remember what a long, strange year it’s been. Ladies and gentlemen, here, in no particular order, are your 2008 Cleveland Indians…
And here, in very particular order, are your lineups for this afternoon's season finale...
INDIANS (81-80): CF Grady Sizemore, 3B Jamey Carroll, LF Ben Francisco, SS Jhonny Peralta, 1B Ryan Garko, DH Travis Hafner, C Kelly Shoppach, RF Franklin Gutierrez, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera. RHP Bryan Bullington (0-1, 5.59).
WHITE SOX (86-72): SS Orlando Cabrera, LF DeWayne Wise, RF Jermaine Dye, DH Jim Thome, 1B Paul Konerko, CF Ken Griffey Jr., 2B Alexei Ramirez, C A.J. Pierzynski, 3B Juan Uribe. LHP Mark Buehrle (14-12, 3.87).
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...
When all is said and done, the Indians will have posted a record of .500 or better in three of the last four seasons. They have at least 80 wins in four of the last five seasons.
The Tribe last swept a three-game series in Chicago in May of 1999.
The Indians were 16 games under .500 (37-53) on July 9. Since that time, they have gained 10 games on the entire division, improving from 16 games back to six games back. This is a good note, though it's equal parts a credit to the Indians and an indictment on the rest of this weak division, which nobody seems to want to win.
The Tribe has won 16 of its last 22 road games and is 21-13 on the road in the second half.
Speaking of the second half, the Indians have scored 378 runs (most in the Majors) and averaged 5.6 runs per game since the break. The Tigers are second with 363 runs. In the first half of the season, the Indians were 16th in the Majors in runs scored at 426.
Shin-Soo Choo has hit safely in 24 of his last 27 games with an at-bat, batting .404 with eight homers and 31 RBIs. His .400 average in September ranks third in the AL.
Hafner is in a 1-for-18 funk.
One of the highlights of any season is the rookie hazing ritual in which the rookies must wear Halloween costumes for one of the final flights of the season. Somehow, the Indians pulled this one off under the media's radar this season. PR guru Bart Swain was kind enough to share with me the highlights of this year's crop. On the Tribe's flight from Boston to Chicago on Thursday night, Rich Rundles was dressed as a cop, Michael Aubrey was dressed as a member of the Village People, John Meloan was dressed as a character from the movie "300," Ben Francisco was dressed as Urkel (not sure how Ben got roped into the rookie hazing ritual two years in a row), and -- the highlight to end all highlights -- Masa Kobayashi was dressed as a pimp, and his interpreter, Toshi Nagahara, was dressed as a prostitute. "I had a whip and everything," Tagahara said. "They spent a lot of money." Sounds like money well spent to me.
Just because the season is over doesn't mean "CastroTurf" shuts down. This blog remains a work in progress (one of these days I'll actually find the energy and/or intellect to post photos or do those tag things), and I'm not sure how frequently it will be updated. But be sure to stop by as frequently or infrequently as you like, and I'll try to keep as much Indians content coming as I can.
In the meantime, I'm headed off to Anaheim for MLB.com's coverage of the Angels-Red Sox AL Division Series. There will be no Mailbag on the Indians.com site tomorrow, but, beginning Oct. 6, the Mailbag will run every week of the offseason. So please keep your submissions coming at email@example.com (and don't forget to include your first name, last initial and hometown).
And as always, thanks for reading.