Can The Indians Find A Formula For Sustained Success?
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The New England Patriots have dominated professional football for more than a decade.
With a trio of championships in five trips to the Super Bowl since 2001 being a routine attendee to the NFL playoffs, any fan in any sport would love to see their team copy this mighty squad’s success.
As we’ve seen the last few years, from Spygate to Ballgate to probably Fieldgate, in which it will be discovered they subtly tilt the field with pneumatic pistons so their opponents are always running slightly uphill, they are not above underhanded tactics to get the win.
How else does Jonas Gray go from a nobody to 200 yards and four touchdowns in one game? That’s not natural. As a fan of the Indians, I would love for the Tribe to taste success anywhere close to the run the Pats have gone through in this Brady-Belichick era. I’ve long been a proponent of New England’s practice of “victory at any cost”, within reason. It’s probably not a good idea to hide guys with tranquilizer rifles around the park to make the other team’s players fall asleep. That might be a bit obvious. But there’s got to be some sort of “-gate” the Tribe could open up and get some big time winning going.
The obvious thing would be to copy the Pats exactly and do something to the baseballs. Problem is, the umpires have such an iron grip on them from dirt rubbing to getting to the pitcher, there’s not a lot of room day of game to futz with them. To my knowledge the teams don’t control the balls they alone use. The only thing I could think is the Indians could rig up some sort of baseball counterfeit machine and make their own, exact copies of the actual MLB ball and replace the official ones, at least at home. Perhaps wind them tighter than the real ball so it travels further and boosts the offense. This wouldn’t be so good for the Tribe pitching staff, but considering they set a record last year in strikeouts as a team they obviously know how to miss bats. Surely it would be a net positive AND It’d put butts in seats to see bombs upon bombs, thus bringing in more money to afford better players and retain the good ones the Indians do produce, thus making the team better, and so on. It’s a recursive loop that builds upon itself and eventually the Indians could phase out their ball cloning operations. All the more room for actual cloning, but that’s another story.
Other equipment trickery could be a teamwide philosophy of bat corking, but that’s so 1990’s. We need to stay hip, stay current. A little advanced trickeration might be needed. According to baseball regulations, the bat must be a solid piece of wood. That means a novel new bat material, bamboo, isn’t allowed. Bamboo bats are made by pressing the hollow tubes together under heat and making a bat with tensile strength greater than steel and lighter than ash or maple or any current wood used. If the Indians could somehow create copies of all their player’s bats out of bamboo, then mask them with paint or a burn pattern or even some sort of veneer so they look like a Louisville Slugger then bat speeds would rise across the team and the ball would leap off the wood. Again, boosting offense in a sly, slippery way. Hard to catch too. I can’t imagine umpires respect wood that much. This would also allow for the Indians to sign seemingly older sluggers who have lost a bit. They could come to Cleveland, start using these wonderful new bats and have a renaissance.
Another tactic would be useful as series go on is to fiddle with the opposing team’s uniforms, at least at Progressive Field. I’d assume that visiting teams leave uniforms and the like in the park when they leave for the night. The Indians should take advantage of this. With all the renovations going on at the park they should install a secret door into the visitor’s clubhouse and every night after the first game of the series, go in and replace every player’s uniform with one of a slightly smaller size. Baseball being a game of comfort and routine this would throw everyone off and opens up for the potential of hilarious little moments like say, Prince Fielder bending to field a grounder and splitting his pants, or Mike Trout’s neck exploding from his too tight collar. The visitor is fighting through this misery all the while the Indians are playing free and easy. It’s genius, if I do say so myself. All it needs is a few looms in the bowels of the stadium and regular deliveries of space cloth. Or polyester, whatever you want to call it.
I don’t want the team to do something so crass as pay of the umpires, that’s cheating without style. That’s not baseball. But they could do something like make the umpire’s box behind the plate ever so tilted so the ump is looking at a tweaked, tilted strike zone. Indians pitchers would have this strange new zone to work corners at home that wouldn’t normally be there otherwise, and make the visiting hurlers deal with balls that should be strikes and drive them crazy. In a game of inches like baseball and apparently every other sport is, this could mean the difference between champ and chump.
Then of course there’s all the old school stuff. They could pull a Toronto and put a Man in White in in the outfield stands to steal signs, though considering attendance numbers he might be easily detected. Maybe put a camera in the outfield for real, like they were accused of doing years ago. Hide nail files and Bengay in small hidden compartments inside doctored pitcher’s gloves. Even just mow mow the infield so balls go faster or slower, depending on the opponent. That one is a classic. If If they changed it up they could keep other teams guessing and always have the upper hand. They could even go low brow and install busty ladies behind home plate, who just happen to go to to the concession stand every bottom half of of the inning. Now that would ruffle the feathers of those stuffed shirts at the league office. There’s so much craftiness that the Indians could pull here and really make home home field advantage strong, and add a little levity to the game too.
The Indians won 48 games at home in 2014. They were a bounce of the ball here, a foot or two on a fly ball there from playing in October if only they could have tilted the playing field a bit more in their favor. A little boost is all they they need. While I don’t advocate outright cheating, baseball as a game grew out of a rough and tumble, freewheeling world away from upstanding society. That spirit is still alive. How often do we salute gamesmanship from old timers? And that’s merely cheating plus time. One ended up in the Hall of Fame. I’d like for my team to be those rapscallions, those jokers that play games within the game. Even if they they got caught people would just just laugh at the audacity of it, if they’re being ridiculous enough. I hope they’re searching for that edge. We can only hope they have top men on this case. Top. Men.