Hope springs eternal: Time for Cleveland Guardians to begin the 162-game stretch to October
Following an eventful last week of spring training, it’s well past time to get excited for the inaugural season of Cleveland Guardians baseball.
The Cleveland Guardians waited until the precipice before the start of the 2022 season to get kicked into gear. In a crazy sort of way, the payoff was sort of worth the tension and the buildup. With the well overdue extension of José Ramírez (and Emmanuel Clase as an unexpected bonus!), it is time for real baseball to return to Cleveland’s radio waves and television sets. Next Friday, the lights at Progressive Field will settle on the red and blue of the Guardians, and we will have another season of baseball well underway.
To put it mildly, this offseason was mostly awful. The seemingly endless lockout will linger sourly in the memories of the baseball faithful, and it felt like the great American pastime might be an afterthought when 2022 was all said and done. Thankfully, we are able to say that the stoppage is a thing of the past, and the scramble to prep for the upcoming season belted into full swing as soon as players could bolt to their respective training sites.
With Opening Day now upon us, here’s what we have to be excited about as we take the 162-game plunge.
A Long-Overdue Extension for José Ramírez Is Signed and Done
The Cleveland Guardians were not quick to act on their microscopic payroll from 2021. Coming into the offseason, fans were promised that that number would increase over the offseason, with the thoughts of outfield acquisitions and contract extensions abounding. Every major free agent and potential trade scenario was broken down and analyzed, and all of the potential extensions the Guardians could ink in theory were proposed and evaluated across the media landscape.
Although they took it up to the day before the 2022 season got underway, Cleveland got its biggest deal in franchise history done, and ensured that José Ramírez would be a Guardian for the foreseeable future.
Reasons for Optimism in the Outfield
Even though the team didn’t go grab a premier outfielder, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about the guys patrolling the grass in 2022. Myles Straw has center field locked down, and Amed Rosario will hopefully find his footing as the everyday starter in left field through the early part of the campaign. Steven Kwan joins the crew in his first season at the major-league level, adding intrigue and excitement to the mix. And who could forget about the rapid recovery of Josh Naylor after his devastating, season-ending injury in 2021? He wasn’t quite ready to join the active roster to start the season, but one can’t help but be excited by his ferocity in attacking his rehab and getting back into baseball shape.
Cleveland’s prospects are starting to arrive
Although it comes with a myriad of question marks, the Cleveland Guardians will field one of the youngest teams in baseball. After years of trading star players for prospects to stock the minors, many of those youngsters (and others who were drafted or signed into the system) could find their way home to Cleveland in 2022. In addition to the aforementioned Kwan and Bryan Lavastida, the likes of Richie Palacios, Gabriel Arias, Brayan Rocchio, Oscar Gonzalez, and even Daniel Espino could be on the way out of the pipeline by season’s end, and there are plenty of reasons to be excited for the next potential core of the team.
If everyone stays healthy, the pitching will be filthy
With the exception of James Karinchak, the pitching staff is healthy and primed for 2022. Shane Bieber will captain one of the most underrated rotations in all of baseball, as the likes of Cal Quantrill and Triston McKenzie look to take MLB by storm in the upcoming season.
Emmanuel Clase, fresh off of signing his five-year extension with the team, looks to ascend as potentially the premier closer in all of baseball. The bullpen will fill out with Nick Sandlin, Trevor Stephan, Anthony Gose, and the ageless wizard Bryan Shaw. Pitching looks to be the dominant strength for the Guardians as things get underway, keeping in line with contemporary Cleveland tradition.
Opening Day is here, and that is something to be thankful for
When the clock strikes 4:10 pm EST, Shane Bieber will hurl a pitch that some hapless Royals batter will swing at and miss badly (that’s what we’ll tell ourselves until we see otherwise), and Tom Hamilton will let us know we’re underway in 2022. Matt Underwood, Rick Manning, and Andre Knott will entertain the TV crowd, while Hammy and Rosey bring the familiar sonic euphoria that have brought many a season alive for listeners around Cleveland, Northeast Ohio, and beyond. The first taste of meaningful baseball will whet the appetite of the Guardians faithful, and the 162 games will begin to fly by.
By next Friday, hot dogs, brats, nachos, and other ballpark favorites (perhaps a beverage or two from Great Lakes) will fill the bellies of fans filling the seats and bleachers at Progressive Field. The familiar sights and sounds of the stadium will have fans feeling at home, and likely a bit chilly if April in Cleveland has anything to say about it. The Guardians era will come home to the corner of Carnegie and Ontario, and fans who are just happy to have their team (regardless of name or branding) back in their home park will revel in the festivities that help make baseball the great spectator sport it has aways been.
Even with so much going on in the world, baseball will be back, and it will be good. José will steal the show with his MVP-caliber play, Franmil will crush dingers, Bieber will blow away hitters and Clase will throw proverbial lightning from his fingertips. The great game we all love will be back for another season, and for those who have stuck by the team through a period of transition and uncertainty across the sport, the payoff will be all the sweeter for it.
And maybe, just maybe, this will be the year Cleveland finally gets that elusive World Series.