Youth, grit, and a GOAT: This Cleveland Guardians team is special
What else can you say after an incredible road trip? This Guardians team is a contender.
I have fond memories of my old man telling me about the Indians of the 1990s: teams stocked with Cleveland legends that filled their stadium to the gills on a nightly basis while reinventing the identity of a club long bereft of sustained success.
When I read Terry Pluto’s Glory Days in Tribe Town, I was able to embrace some of that sentiment of Cleveland teams that got down, but were never out. I talked about those heralded Tribe teams with my dad, with friends, and others who lived through one of Cleveland’s baseball peaks, and I imagined what that would be like today. I feel like I’ve gotten a dose of those ’90s teams, because these Guardians in 2022 exemplify the best of Cleveland’s baseball history and are here to stay in the race to the postseason.
I was only a couple months old when the 1995 Cleveland Indians stormed to a 93-51 record, helmed by John Hart, Mike Hargrove, and Dick Jacobs. My dad has filled me in on the excitement, and the never-quit attitude that team possessed. The Browns had left town, the Cavs were coming down from their strong early-90s runs, and the Indians were playing electric ball in a sterling new park in Jacobs Field.
The likes of Kenny Lofton, Sandy Alomar, Albert Belle, Jim Thome, and plenty of others endeared a long tread-upon city to a team breaking away from decades of futility. Today, José Ramírez and company are grabbing the attention of the city, and making waves across the landscape of Major League Baseball. The inaugural Guardian squad hasn’t been given much of chance at success across the baseball landscape, but they show up on a daily basis and give fans a reason to stay tuned in for all nine (plus) innings of the ballgame.
The Guardians have a couple things that make them such an attraction for fans:
- They’re incredibly entertaining. They never treat a game like it’s concluded, even when they’re down, and keep their foot on the gas until the final out. Case in point are the two thrillers against Minnesota. Playing in a hostile environment, facing down the team that has sat perched in first in the AL Central since April, and at the end of a lengthy road trip, this team has rolled with the punches and won two dogfights against a good Twins squad.
- They’re the youngest team in baseball by a significant margin. This team is younger than your average Triple-A team, and they’re hanging with some of the game’s best on a nightly basis.
- They have the commitment of one of the best players in the game in José Ramírez. J-Ram could have taken a trade out of town this last offseason and cashed in on a massive payday when his current contract expired. Yet here he is, having taken less money to stay with a team he wants to retire with. Outside of Christian Yelich, there aren’t many other examples of that kind of dedication to a team in MLB. It’s one of the things that makes Ramírez the GOAT of this squad, and the most exciting athlete in Cleveland.
- This team wins together, loses together, plays strong fundamental baseball, and has gelled into a true unit. They beat the bad teams, and are showing they can beat the good ones, too. Helmed by Tito and an under-appreciated front office, the Guardians’ youngsters have directed their collective focus on winning games, shutting out distractions, and keeping their eyes on the prize. It’s an impressive mindset for a team that is this young.
By season’s end, no one knows where this team will be. They could be on the way to a playoff berth as the division champ, riding a Wild Card berth, or sitting on the outside looking in. What we do know is that the journey to that end will be a fun one. There will be great ups, and there will be some down stretches where we’ll really see what these guys are made of. To this point, they’ve shown that despite their youth and inexperience, they have the grit to get back up off the mat and keep on swinging.
Having a GOAT certainly doesn’t hurt either.