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Know Your Enemy: Cleveland Baseball Team

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“Major League” is the only good thing they have

Major League- Paramount Pictures

We’re coming off of a wet and wild weekend split against the Royals, with Sunday’s finale being mostly a comedy of errors and the terrible extra innings rule.

The Sox are staying home, and the next team rolling in is the Cleveland Baseball Team. Some outstanding questions remain, like: Is Cleveland still mad about the corked bat caper? Were they surprised that Albert Belle was trash? Do they plan on actually changing their name?

I know what you’re thinking: Ot’s starting to feel like the weird region rodeo of 2020, but let me assure you that at some point, the White Sox are headed east to Boston.

2020 Record: 35-25 (second in the AL Central)

Unlike some other teams, Cleveland did manage to get to the postseason, taking a big L in the Wild Card by going 2-0 against everyone’s enemy, the Yankees. Terry Francona was still their manager but missed most of the season, and all of the postseason, due to an ongoing issue with blood clotting.

Cleveland is continuing to “explore” a name change and have made some half-assed attempts to be less racist as a team by ... talking about changing their name. This also managed to spark a very lame debate online of “Irish people aren’t offended by the Fighting Irish/Lucky Charms leprechaun, so people shouldn’t be offended by the Indians/Redskins/Braves/Chiefs.” Nothing invites people to show their ass quite like asking them to think about how it’s not a great idea to have a racist logo.

Cleveland won the majority of the matchups last year against the White Sox, which is fun. However, going into 2021 they have managed to sell off some pieces because owners are cheap and use the “small-market team” as an excuse more often than not.

Let’s not forget last August’s hilarious drama with Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger ignoring COVID protocols, getting busted, and Clevinger ending up getting booted to San Diego. No word on how either feels about vaccines and rules, but I imagine they haven’t changed since last year’s dumb shenanigans.

The offseason brought Eddie Rosario and Cesar Hernandez on with one-year deals while getting Amed Rosario, Andres Gimenez, Josh Wolf, and Isaiah Greene from the Mets in exchange for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco. The shipped off Matt Waldron (the player to be named later from the Clevinger trade) to San Diego and selected Trevor Stephan in the Rule 5 Draft. They also lost the likes of Carlos Santana (to KC), Brad Hand, Delino DeShields, Tyler Naquin, and Sandy Leon.

Because reducing spending is always the priority for Cleveland, they came into 2021 with a payroll of about $50 million (give or take), with just one team spending less (hi Pittsburgh).

2021 Manager: Terry Francona

Francona is in the last year of his contract after receiving a two-year extension in 2019, and the offseason was especially awkward when it was revealed that Cleveland may have covered up for Mickey Callaway when he was employed as the pitching coach and was sexually harassing women left, right, and center. Francona has, of course, denied that the organization covered anything up, but that isn’t very believable when it was reported by The Athletic that 12 current and former employees came forward to say that the team knew about his behavior during his tenure from 2013-17. It got especially messy when his son, Nick (who has a messy relationship himself with his father and MLB) waded into the discussion:

2021 So Far

Cleveland is currently 5-3, sitting in first place atop the division, percentage points behind the Royals. They had a tough start to the season, losing the first two against the Tigers (with Bieber and Plesac taking those losses). After that, plus one loss to the Royals, they took the remaining games last week against the Tigers and K.C.

The team is currently hitting .266 with 35 RBIs in eight games. Meanwhile, the pitching is a solid 2.83 ERA across 70 innings. So far they don’t seem to be missing the likes of Clevinger, Lindor, and Carrasco, but it’s still relatively early in the season.

Meanwhile Roberto Perez dropped 25 pounds coming into spring training and is in the best shape of his career (in what could possibly be his final season with the team). If Perez does end up leaving, the team has Austin Hedges to fall back on after he came over in the Clevinger trade. Hedges hasn’t had much playing time thus far, so it remains to be seen how well he’d do behind the plate in Perez’s absence. Lindor’s gap in short has been filled by Andres Gimenez after the team decided to put Ahmed Rosario in center; Gimenez hasn’t shown a lot of power yet, but he’s still a young player with plenty of time to develop.

Cleveland has a lot of young, undeveloped talent so at the end of the day it’s hard to predict how things are going to go. They may come out on top, they may finish behind the White Sox and Twins. However, they can be reassured that the race to last place will be occupied solely by Kansas City and Detroit.

Series Matchup: Is TLR Still Working Out the Kinks?

Tonight brings a battle between Triston McKenzie and Carlos Rodón. This will be McKenzie’s first appearance in the 2021 regular season (as Cleveland hasn’t needed for a fifth starter before now), and after a shaky spring he had a relief outing of one run on two hits in 3 23 innings. Rodón, meanwhile, may be experiencing some sickness post-vaccine (or just in general) so if does end up on the mound he’s bringing the push from a first win since April 2019, and a 0.00 ERA in five innings.

Tuesday is ace vs. ace, with Lucas Giolito facing Shane Bieber. Bieber’s record right now is 0-1 with a 3.65 ERA. Opening Day, he managed to strike out 12, give up a two-run homer to Miguel Cabrera that got lost in the snow, and allow three runs on five hits through six innings. Giolito has struck out 18 over 10 23 innings so far, going into the fifth in both of his starts. Most recently, Giolito struck out 10 Mariners, walked three, and allowed six hits.

Wednesday and Thursday have Dallas Keuchel and Lance Lynn, respectively, while Cleveland hasn’t announced starters yet. Keuchel is off to a slow 2021 start, allowing seven earned runs in nine innings. Lynn famously pitched a home opener shutout against the Royals, striking out 11 over 111 pitches with zero walks.

What Do the Fans Think?