Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I don't believe in superstitions (Knock on wood)

For me the Fourth of July was a perfect metaphor for the Indians season so far. My brother was in town and his friend was meeting up with us. After napping through game one of the doubleheader, my brother decided he wanted to go to the nightcap.
Not since the Old Lady on the Lake was still standing, had I arrived at a game without a ticket. We passed several scalpers on the walk in but ignored them until we saw the unruly line for tickets. A visit to the corner found unreasonable "added charges." The game was far from a sellout but apparently the scalpers, enjoying the less than lucrative Indians campaign, were trying to make up all their money in one night.
So standing in line it was. I know the crowds have been light this year but management had to know this game was ripe for a big walk-up crowd. And it was, a record was set for the largest walk- up crowd in the history of the Jake. But I wonder how many more turned around with the chaos at the ticket lines.
We got to our seat just in time to see the Indians get three runs in the first. My brother and his buddy then left to get some of the $1 hot dogs. They did not return until the bottom of the fifth.
The concession stands were closed in the upper deck where our seats were. When they finally made it to the front of a long line at another stand, they ran out of dogs. Another long wait at yet another stand found them getting the last of those available.
Finally, people show up at the Jake and their experience was being spoiled by long lines. But at the end of the night most of those frustrations were a distant memory.
An inside the park homer from Coco Crisp and an another big blast from Travis Hafner had the home folks buzzing. Thanks to perfect timing, those of us in right field could watch the always impressive Jacobs Field fireworks and in the background, Edgewater's display over the Terminal Tower.
Leaving the park, all that was on my mind was that the team was for real. That this was in fact going to be a special year.
One of our interns, Katie, told me the very next day that I was the most superstitious person she had ever met. Naturally I told her that I did not, in fact, believe in superstitions. Then I knocked on my desk and rubbed my belly three times.
So when the next day, Eric Wedge gave Travis Hafner the night off, like many of you, all I could think were bad thoughts. It was akin to growing back his mustache.
Of course not starting Hafner is not why the Indians lost five of their last six games before the break. But it sure feels that way. You don't mess with a hot streak. You don't wash your socks. You eat the same cereal. And you don't sit a monster who is hitting over FIVE HUNDRED for the month.
I keep hearing how this team plays the right way. But that isn't true. Yes, this team is full of gamers that play hard and don't give up.
I respect that Wedge knows his team better than I do. I respect that he has undying faith in his team. But we still don't play the right way.
What is the right way? The right way is moving runners. If you have the lead you play for one more run every chance you can and not just try for a big inning. This team does not move runners. They don't bunt. The little things that need to be done still are not being done on daily basis.
Is that the manager? Is that Wedge knowing what his team can and cannot do? Maybe they can't bunt, but it is the little things that the White Sox have been doing all season. That is why they win one run games. It is why they have dominated us so far.
A big four game series starts tomorrow. Not so much about catching the White Sox but proving that the Indians are ready to show they are serious playoff contenders. All you have to do is get in the playoffs, winning a division is meaningless since the last three World Series Champions have been wildcard teams.
The Indians went from being unbeatable to looking lost in just days. 1995 will never again happen in this town. With our market, this team has been built as good it could be by Mark Shapiro. He has assembled a collection of good young talent that will have growing pains.
A roller coaster ride of ups and downs is certainly more fun than spinning your wheels in last place. This is a young team with a very bright future. Bob Wickman was the only Indian to make this year's All Star game but it won't be long before Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta and Cliff Lee are all regular invitees.
As we have discussed before in this column, the schedule is set up for a big second half. But with expectations come added pressures. Early in the season, it was said that the hitting wasn't that bad and the pitching wasn't that good. Now that the bats are hot, let's hope that we were just half right.