COMMENTARY | The city of Cleveland once again has a team to be proud of.
With the Cleveland Browns stinking up FirstEnergy Stadium on a weekly basis, and the Cleveland Cavaliers a shell of the team that dominated the NBA during the LeBron James-era, the Cleveland Indians are doing their absolute best to generate some enthusiasm in a city whose sports fans could really use it.
At 88-70, the Indians appear to be poised to return to the postseason for the first time since 2007. Even if Cleveland fails in its bid to earn a spot in the upcoming American League playoffs, the 2013 season will still have been a successful one for the Tribe.
These are the five main reasons why:
Terry Francona's Leadership
Francona's calm demeanor has helped guide a young Tribe team through some rough spots during the 2013 season.
Cleveland has had five losing streaks of at least five games this season, and every single time it looked like the Indians were going to be a non-factor in 2013, they have gone on a tear to put themselves right back in contention.
Much of the credit for the Indians' ability to bounce back from adversity this season is due to Francona's leadership, and if he doesn't win the AL Manager of the Year Award, I will be shocked.
On paper, neither Giambi or Swisher are having really productive years for the Tribe in 2013, but both have had their fair share of memorable moments.
Giambi, of course, is the toast of Cleveland after belting a huge pinch-hit two-run homer to give the Indians a 5-4 win over the Chicago White Sox on September 24. Swisher has been no slouch in the clutch, either, delivering when the Tribe needed it most numerous times during the 2013 campaign.
In addition to their late-inning heroics, the duo has cultivated a playful atmosphere in the Cleveland locker room -- a far cry from the staid Indians clubhouse of a year ago.
The Emergence of the Starting Rotation
Cleveland's starting pitching was rough during the early part of 2013. While Justin Masterson and Zach McAllister were pitching well, the same could not be said for Ubaldo Jimenez or Scott Kazmir.
Then Corey Kluber showed up.
Kluber's strong pitching seemed to ignite a fire in Jimenez and Kazmir, because both have pitched very well since the middle of June. The much-maligned Jimenez, in particular, has been masterful during the second half of the season, filling in admirably while Masterson was sidelined with an oblique injury.
The Tribe Offense Has Been Solid All Season
Looking at the numbers, Cleveland's offensive output in 2013 isn't exactly eye-popping -- the Tribe are hitting .253 as a team and averaging 4.5 runs per game.
But, this being the dawn of the MLB's post-steroid era, those are actually pretty good numbers in this day and age. That seemingly low .253 batting average is still good enough for 14th-best in the big leagues, and Cleveland's 717 runs scored are the sixth-highest total in MLB in 2013.
The Indians are also in the MLB's top 10 in home runs and OPS, so it's pretty apparent Cleveland's offense has done more than its fair share to make 2013 a successful season for the Tribe.
The Tribe Have Exceeded Most Expectations
While most everyone figured this year's version of the Indians would fare better than the crew that went a dreadful 68-94 in 2012, it was still thought the Tribe were still at least a year away from a playoff berth.
Las Vegas had the Indians' over-under win total for 2013 at 77.5. A very reasonable number, and one that the Tribe have far exceeded this summer, as the Indians are nearing 90 victories and a very likely playoff berth.
The Indians also managed to keep the Detroit Tigers from running away with the AL Central, despite the fact that Cleveland has been absolutely horrendous against the Tigers in 2013. If the Indians had done even a little better than their 4-15 record versus Detroit, we might be talking about a division title in Cleveland instead of a wild-card berth.
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Indians for over 25 years.
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