Gotta Beat the Bad Teams
There is an old baseball axiom that if you play .500 against the top teams in the league and beat-up on the cellar dwellers then you put yourself in position to make the playoffs. This holds true not only in baseball but in all sports. The Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970’s won 4 Super Bowls largely because they always beat the bums. Chuck Noll’s teams during the decade of the 70’s were an amazing 50-0 vs. teams with losing records. The bottom line here is you have to beat the teams you are supposed to beat.
The 2006 Cleveland Indians have played extremely well against the top contenders so far. Tom Hamilton did some research and found that the Tribe is 9-4 against Chicago, Boston, Oakland and Minnesota (the Twins were thought to be a contender when the Indians opened at home against them). Even if you include the Tigers, a team no one expected to be this good, the Indians are a combined 11-6. So why are they wallowing around the .500 mark?
The main culprit is the fact that they haven’t played well against the bad teams. The Indians have lost 8 of 13 games against Kansas City, Baltimore, and Seattle. Is it a matter of playing to the level of competition or simply the law of averages? Probably a little of both but, the Indians are a better team than they have showed so far. Inconsistent starting pitching plagued them the first month of the season but, CC Sabathia’s return should help remedy that problem. The bullpen appears to be settling down and Rafael Betancourt will return from the D.L. next week further fortifying the ‘pen.
Offensively the Indians have been better than just about any other team in the league. Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner and Casey Blake are among the league leaders in multiple offensive categories and Grady Sizemore is batting above .300. The key for the Tribe now is to put it all together and this would be a good time to do it. The Indians will play the Royals 6 times in the next 10 days, plus they’ve got 3 games at home versus Detroit and the woeful Pittsburgh Pirates.
The season is still early and there is plenty of time to catch the Tigers and White Sox. CC Sabathia told me last night, "Hey, its only May."
Yeah that’s true but, as Yogi Berra once said, "It can get late early."