Larry Dolan hurts baseball in Cleveland
When Progressive Field (then named Jacobs Field) opened its doors in 1994, attendance sky rocketed and the Indians were proud owners of a then-record, 455 consecutive sellouts. Power hitters like Albert Belle, Jim Thome, and Manny Ramirez brought out the fans to the Shores of Lake Erie. Things changed for the worst however after Larry Dolan bought the team, and constructed a rebuild of the squad, and building teams on the cheap, much to the frustration of loyal Indians' fans who were accustomed to winning. After the massive rebuild, Indians' fans have emptied a once proud stadium, and attendance has never been the same, except for 2007, when the Indians were one win away from winning the American League Pennant. Despite all the downs, baseball is starting to look up in Cleveland.
High Hopes in 2007
After the 2007 season, the Indians were looking to build off their almost pennant win by trying to win their division and had the majority of their core players from the season before in place. As for the rest of the AL Central, the Twins traded away their ace in Johan Santana and lost their franchise player in Torii Hunter to the Angels, the White Sox were an unkown, the Royals stuck in mediocrity but it was the Tigers posed the biggest threat by having a massive offseason. As the season commenced, the Indians lost Victor Martinez due to injury, and finished the month under .500 with a 13-15 record. The word average would describe the Tribe's season, as they finished 81-81. The Indians also traded CC Sabathia to the Brewers that July, receiving Matt LaPorta, Rob Bryson, Zack Jackson, and a player to be named later (who would be revealed as Michael Brantley). They also traded Casey Blake to the Dodgers for Carlos Santana and Jon Meloan. While the Indians struggled that season, Cliff Lee had an excellent year (22-3, 2.54 ERA, 170 Ks), and as a result, won the American League Cy Young. The next few seasons would be a struggle for the Indians, as they would not finish above .500 until the 2013 season.
Things turn around in 2013
That 2013 season brought hope and optimism for Indians fans as they hired Terry Francona as manager, and for the first time in a while, Larry Dolan opened up his checkbook and signed Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to four-year contracts worth $56 million and $48 million respectively. The Indians made the playoffs that season as the second wild card team, but lost to the Tampa Bay Rays. Despite the loss, a solid core of young, controllable players started to develop in Cleveland. With strong starting pitching and a collection of solid every day players, the Indians completely transformed their organization.
After winning the American League Pennant in 2016, the Indians have gone all-in for the next couple of seasons. They have a solid core of position players under team control, a solid bullpen, and a filthy starting rotation that could lead them to another penannt. After signing Edwin Encarnacion a three-year, $60 million contract, this franchise is expected to win the World Series within the next three seasons.
After years of struggles, the Cleveland Indians have turned the corner, and are now perennial contenders for the World Series. After signing Edwin Encarnacion to a franchise record contract, the team is expected to at least compete for that elusive World Series title for the foreseeable future. With a solid core in place, we can expect Progressive Field to fill up again like it did in the 1990's.
Do you think Cleveland are favorites to make it out of the AL? Let us know why or why not in the comments!