Indians making Cleveland forget about LeBron

By Jacob Mayer

What was expected to be another dismal year of sports in Cleveland has turned into the biggest surprise of the early baseball season.

The Cleveland Indians currently sit at the top of the AL Central division with a 19-8 record and have a 4.5 game lead over the Kansas City Royals, another team that has been a pleasant surprise.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this early season surge is how the team has played at home. After their 5-4 come-from-behind win against the Detroit Tigers on Sunday, the Indians have won 13 home games in a row. They also set a team record for the most wins in team history in the month of April.

This isn’t to say the Indians have a playoff berth locked up. They’re still far from it, and the St. Louis Blues are a prime example of how a season can take a turn for the worse. The Blues started the season with a 9-1-2 record, but injuries ravaged the team and the Blues missed the playoffs.

Injuries and starting pitching will play a large part in how long the Indians can remain at, or near, the front of the AL Central, but so far Cleveland’s pitching staff has allowed more than five runs only twice in its first 27 games. Plus, the Indians’ disabled list has just four members, although two of them, Mitch Talbot and Carlos Carrasco, were part of the Indians’ opening day rotation.

Although its still early, many believed Cleveland would be in full-on rebuilding mode yet again and have a record closer to the Minnesota Twins’ 9-18 mark.

The previous sports year was otherwise quite forgettable for Cleveland sports fans. The Browns finished their season at 5-11, the Cavaliers went 19-63 with a 26-game losing streak mixed in and the Indians were coming off a 69-93 season and finished 25 games behind the division-winning Twins.

Expectations for this year were equally low, but the Indians have thus far shown Cleveland fans there is reason to hope.

The economics of Major League Baseball are much different than they were back in the mid-1990s when the Indians last had a team make the playoffs multiple years in a row, but they have the youngest team in baseball that could give fans optimism for another similar run of success.

The Indians had the makings of a great team in 2007 with a pitching staff led by C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee and almost went to the World Series, but salary restrictions forced the Indians to trade both Sabathia and Lee before the 2009 season was finished.

Maybe this early success is just a fluke and the Indians will be in fourth place by the time September comes around, but they have already beaten teams that are over .500 such as the Royals and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and they’ve beaten teams that likely will be over .500 by the end of the season, including the Tigers, Twins and Boston Red Sox.

The Indians’ May schedule doesn’t look to be any more difficult than April, so maybe this team will be this season’s baseball surprise and give Cleveland fans a reason to believe they can have a good team without a dominant superstar such as LeBron James.

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