At the end of the year, it is unlikely the Cleveland Indians will be given their outright release or sent back to the minors because the ownership's plan of fielding a team bad enough to break its lease with the city and then move it to Miami backfired.
We can't be 100 percent certain, but there have been no reports of a clubhouse holy war between an evangelical Christian pitcher and a voodoo-worshiping slugger. "You trying to say Jesus Christ can't hit a curveball?"
And it is highly improbable that the players have a life-sized cutout of owner Lawrence J. Dolan which, for motivational purposes, they strip one piece of clothing off after each victory until they catch the Chicago White Sox (currently only 2½ games ahead) and/or expose Dolan's Cuyahoga warrior.
But other than that, don't tell me we aren't seeing life imitate art – if you are willing to call the 1989 cinematic classic "Major League" art.
And I certainly am. "Major League" is my favorite baseball movie, which, although I am no expert on the genre, easily outdistances "Field of Dreams" (a bit sappy), "Bull Durham" (a chick flick in disguise) and the original "Bad News Bears" (although that one is damn close).
You'd be a fool to ignore the similarities between that group of Indians and this hard-charging, largely anonymous, scorned-by-its-own-fans, improbable group that currently has the AL wild card, if not the fast folding White Sox, in its sights.
Don't believe me?
What do you make of …
- Closer Bob Wickman, who the last three seasons posted a 1-5 record with a 4.36 ERA as "Wild Thing" Ricky Vaughn. Wickman's career even includes the mysterious 2003 season, which he was not in the majors. The California Penal League, perhaps?
Willie Mays Hayes: "How'd you end up playing there?"
Ricky Vaughn: "Stole a car."
Just like Wild Thing, Wickman is no Mariano Rivera-style, no-sweat closer. He may have saved 44 games in 49 opportunities this year, but he loves to make it interesting, such as Monday's 7-5 victory over the White Sox when he brought the winning run to the plate before recording the final out.
- The rebirth of veteran pitcher Kevin Millwood, whose 2.97 ERA is almost two full points below last year's effort with the Phillies, playing Eddie Harris, whose slime-ball routine coupled with the energy of the new guys resurrected his career.
Ricky Vaughn: "What's that [stuff] on your chest?"
Eddie Harris: "Crisco. Bardol. Vagisil. Any one of them will give you another two to three inches drop on your curve ball. Of course if the umps are watching me real close I'll rub a little jalapeno up my nose, get it runnin', and if I need to load the ball up I just wipe my nose."
- Suddenly slugging Jhonny Peralta, who entered the season with four career homers only to knock 22 already, as Pedro Cerrano, the mysterious Hispanic power man who worships an ancient island religion in an effort to hit curve balls.
This role could also be played by the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Travis Hafner (.305, 27 homers) although we don't know how many black, Hispanic voodoo worshipers hail from Jamestown, N.D. As for Peralta, there is no word on his choice of religion, but there is no denying something has clicked this season.
Pedro Cerrano: "Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straightball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. I ask Jobu to come, take fear from bats. I offer him cigar, rum. He will come."
Eddie Harris: "You know you might think about taking Jesus Christ as your savior."
- And, how about Lou Brown, the three-decade manager of the Toledo Mud Hens and offseason tire salesman, and skipper Eric Wedge (ever heard of him)? Both are no-nonsense. And both came up through the system (Wedge previously managed the Buffalo Bison) only to make the most of their chance in the bigs with a historic late-season rally.
Charlie Donovan: "Lou, how would you like to manage the Indians this year?"
Lou Brown: "Let me get back to you, will ya, Charlie? I got a guy on the other line asking about some white walls."
- As for Harry Doyle, the hard-drinking, ill-prepared, completely biased "Voice of the Indians," well, look, Tom Hamilton has done a heck of a job in that capacity the last 16 seasons, but we don't want to insult the guy's professionalism. Besides, there may never have been an "actor" better made for a role than Bob Uecker playing Doyle. We are talking once in a lifetime.
Harry Doyle: "That's all we got, one goddamn hit?"
Color Man: "You can't say goddamn on the air."
Doyle: "Don't worry, nobody is listening anyway."
And there is more.
Are you telling me Coco Crisp doesn't sound like a made-up movie name?
Or how about if the Indians do make the playoffs and a showdown with either the movie nemesis New York Yankees or the defending World Series champion Red Sox looms? You can't say there is a better Clue Heywood clone than the menacing David Ortiz. "How's your wife and my kids?"
Or how about Cleveland fans, accustomed to recent losing, being so skeptical of the Indians when they finally started winning that Jacobs Field was mostly empty until the last week.
Jake Taylor: "I play for the Indians."
Old Lady at the party: "Here in Cleveland? I didn't know they still had a team."
Taylor: "Yup, we've got uniforms and everything."
But if the Indians can pull this off – come back from 15 games down in August to win the AL Central – the Jake will be rocking like old Cleveland Stadium in the movie, and we know how that one turned out.
So you can ignore the similarities at your own risk, but just remember one thing:
"Forget about the curve ball Ricky, give him the heater."
- Jesus Christ
- Eddie Harris