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The View From Pluto: For The Indians, The Hard Way Is The Right Way

The Indians clinch
Cleveland Indians

  Cleveland’s magical year in sports rolls on, with the Indians celebrating their first American League Central title in nearly a decade. They clinched a postseason berth by beating rival Detroit on Monday. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto says clinching the division on the Tiger’s home field made a statement. 

 

Taming the Tigers
"The Tigers have been treating the Indians like the little brother that was never ever going to grow up and beat us out," he says. 

Pluto says in the three years before Terry Francona was hired as manager, the Tigers dominated the Indians, with a 41-19 record. And he says even in 2013, when the Indians won 92 games won a wild card berth, the Tigers had a 15-4 series advantage. This year, the Indians have dominated, 14-2. 

"So, not only did the Indians win the Central Division, they wiped out the team that was trying to catch them," Pluto says. "If they didn’t do it at home, they wanted to do it in Detroit, I’ll tell you that much."

Ramirez for MVP?
Pluto says Jose Ramirez has emerged as a surprising star this season and should be the team's MVP.

"He hit .219 in 2015. This year, basically Michael Brantley’s hurt all year. He’s had the kind of season Brantley has, where, hits .350 with guys in scoring position. He’s a .300 hitter. He’s one of the top guys in hitting doubles and drives in runs. Plays every day. Low-maintenance guy; no problems."

Kudos to the top brass
Pluto says he believes President Chris Antonetti should be baseball's Executive of the Year and Terry Francona should be Manager of the Year, because they've worked with a low payroll and took chances to turn the team around, as Antonetti told WKSU this week.

"Bottom six payroll. The free agents they signed were guys that were guys really neglected by other teams. Mike Napoli was cast aside by Texas. He's hit 34 homers. Rajai Davis, cast aside by the Tigers, leads the league in stolen bases at the age of 35.

Doing it the hard way
"The Indians are a drama-free team. All the drama is on the field. They had 11 walk-off victories at home. It’s stunning. You only play 81 home games. And I think that’s what happened this year; this is a very enjoyable team.

They did it the hard way. Francona might even say in some ways they did it the right way, the old fashioned way. You did it with younger players and some smart trades, maybe some older guys you thought had something left but somebody else did not. And you kind of bring them together."

The remaining games matter
The Indians finish the series with the Tigers this week and finish the regular season against Kansas City this weekend. And Pluto says those games matter for home field advantage in the playoffs. They’d have to have a better record than both Boston and Texas.

"Chris Antonetti told me they’d like to have home field all the way through but they have to be careful with that. Because you don’t want to wear your guys down as you head into the playoffs. You don’t want a tired team."

Beyond underdogs
Pluto says the Indians will either face Texas or Boston in the first round of the playoffs.

"Nobody’s going to pick them to win. Carlos Carrasco has a broken hand. Danny Salazar, who made the all star team, really hasn’t done anything since then and now has an arm problem. Now Corey Kluber has perhaps a groin problem, but I expect him to pitch, unless it’s really bad. I just think that’s the way he is."

"But they have had this kind of strange season with different heroes.  This is baseball, strange things happen in short series."

The View From Pluto: For The Indians, The Hard Way Is The Right Way
Terry Pluto reflects on the unlikely heroes who carried the team to the 1997 World Series.