“Surprise, surprise, come on open your eyes”

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
On Twitter: @Castrovince

celebrationTotally did not see this coming.

I was optimistic, but not this optimistic.

I was a believer, but not this big a believer.

I knew the Indians would be better this year, and not just because things couldn’t have gotten much worse than the 2012 freefall. I knew an injection of veteran presence would help add enough stability to probably finish at or around .500. The break-even point itself would have been a 13-win improvement over a year ago, which in this game is major progress.

But 92 victories? A Wild Card berth? And home-field advantage in the Wild Card round?

Totally did not see this coming.

I knew that Terry Francona knew what he was doing. I knew he had a knack for getting the most out of his players because he supports them, backs them and goes to great measures to understand them. But I also knew that those Boston clubs in 2004 and 2007 – heck, even 2011 – had a lot more established talent than this 2013 Tribe club. I didn’t know Francona would be such an expert tactician with a versatile bench, and I didn’t know his optimism and excitement about being here would prove so unshakable even in the season’s darkest days. I didn’t know he’d put together what is arguably the greatest managerial job of his career, World Series or not.

I knew the Indians, with an outfield of Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley and Drew Stubbs, would be more athletic, more agile, more defensively stout. I knew that Jason Kipnis was capable of taking the next step toward stardom. I knew there was more power in Santana’s bat if his time behind the plate was managed appropriately. I knew there were a lot of reasons to like this team, but I didn’t know there’d be this much to like.

Totally did not see this coming.

I knew that under-the-radar moves have often been the strength of the front office in the Mark Shapiro-Chris Antonetti era, and so the Mike Aviles acquisition was an eye-catcher. I didn’t know what a steal that trade would turn out to be. I didn’t know that when Lou Marson got steamrolled by Desmond Jennings at the plate in early April, it would open the door for Yan Gomes to eventually supplant Santana as the regular catcher, maximizing this Tribe roster to the full extent of its capabilities.

I knew the Indians were high on Mickey Callaway and the work he had done within their Minor League system. I didn’t know he’d be the savant who would finally solve the Ubaldo Jimenez riddle, to say nothing of the strides made by Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister, the return to prominence of Justin Masterson and the incredible comeback of Scott Kazmir, all of which happened under his watch.

I knew Ubaldo, like most players, would be inspired in some measure by the pull of possible free agency. I didn’t know he’d be one of the best pitchers in baseball in the second half, rescuing the rotation when Masterson went down with an oblique strain. (And no, I did not know Masterson would return and be so effective in the ‘pen).

Totally did not see this coming.

I knew Nick Swisher was excited (he used the word “excited” 16 times in his introductory press conference), but I didn’t know how genuine that excitement would turn out to be. I didn’t know he’d still be excited and hopeful and believing in big things when he was hitting .239 and nursing a throbbing shoulder at the end of June. I didn’t fully appreciate how much his past pennant race experience would come to help this team in the September stretch, when Swish was at this absolute best. I didn’t know how seriously he’d take his leadership role on this club, showing up unannounced at a ticket sales meeting and doling out $15,000 to finance an end-of-season fireworks display. I didn’t know he’d be the rare free-agent addition who, by the end of his first season, would feel like he’s been here all along.

I knew Jason Giambi was appreciative of this opportunity to prolong his playing career. I knew a guy who nearly nabbed the Rockies’ managerial job over the winter (and how thankful are the Indians right now that the Rox went with Walt Weiss?) would provide immeasurable input and influence behind the scenes. I didn’t know Giambi, despite a sub-.200 average, would contribute some of the biggest hits of the season, including arguably the biggest – the walkoff winner against the White Sox last Tuesday.

Totally did not see this coming.

I knew the Shin-Soo Choo trade was one worth making (and this is coming from the biggest Choo fan there is). But I didn’t know the real value in that trade would come not from Trevor Bauer but from Stubbs and from bullpen pieces Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers, who would join Cody Allen and Joe Smith and in-season addition Marc Rzepcynski to pick up the pieces in the ‘pen as Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano regressed.

I knew Ryan Raburn was an underrated pickup. I didn’t know he’d hit 16 homers and drive in 55 runs in a reserve role.

Totally did not see this coming.

From the day I arrived in Spring Training camp in Goodyear and saw the remnants of the “Harlem Shake” video shoot, I knew the Indians would be looser and generally more interesting than they’ve been in years. But I didn’t know the looseness would last even in the face of an eight-game losing streak. I didn’t know the fun would outweigh the frustrations. I didn’t know there would be 11 walkoff wins. I didn’t know there would be seven four-game sweeps. I didn’t know they’d not just take advantage of but absolutely own a favorable September schedule, winning 21 of their final 27 and all of their last 10.

I knew that 4-15 record against the Tigers would come back to bite the Tribe. I didn’t know they’d finish just one game back of a Detroit club that had nearly double their Opening Day payroll. But oh well.

I knew this season would be fun. I didn’t know it would be this fun.

Totally did not see this coming.

And there’s still more to come.

~AC

5 Comments

Truth. As a life-long die-hard Tribe fan, I admit I lost some faith after last season. This club has surprised me over and over and I cannot wait to see the Indians play in October again.

Bring on October. Go tribe!!!

that’s okay Anthony. Neither did this lifelong Indians fan or any of the others on my Indians/Browns email blog list.

It will be a tribe town again my friend, Weds is a sell out already!!!!

Pingback: While We’re Waiting… Wins all around! | WaitingForNextYear

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