The View From Pluto: Cleveland and Toronto Share Baseball Philosophy and Strategy
The Cleveland Indians face the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series beginning Friday. Both teams were considered underdogs who then swept their respective division series.
WKSU commentator Terry Pluto says the Blue Jays had to win a one-game Wild Card to even make it into the playoffs.
Then, they swept the Texas Rangers -- the team with the best regular-season records in the American League -- just before the Indians swept the Boston Red Sox.
"Here they are, two teams that you would never figure would be playing for the American League title and a chance to go to the World Series," Pluto says.
A tale of two executives
The president of the Blue Jays is Mark Shapiro, a familiar name in Cleveland. Shapiro spent most of his career with the Indians, beginning as an intern in 1991. He became general manager in 2001 and was twice named Executive of the Year by The Sporting News (2005 and 2007). He became the Indians team president at the end of 2010, with his protege, Chris Antonetti replacing him as general manager.
Last year, Shapiro left the Indians to become president of the Blue Jays. Now, Antonetti is at the helm of the Indians, and the two remain close.
"In that champagne-soaked locker room the other night, Antonetti said, 'I wouldn't be here except for the fact Mark Shapiro hired me and promoted me up.'"
Cleveland as a training ground
Pluto says the two executives had to learn how to find success the hard way in Cleveland.
"I think here has been a real training ground and proving ground for executives, because look at the two payrolls."
Toronto has the 12th-highest payroll in baseball at $137 million. The Indians, meanwhile, are ranked 22nd with $96 million. "And that's one of the highest they're had in a long time," Pluto says.
Pluto says the two teams are far from rivals.
"They both really pull for each other. In fact, one of the texts Shapiro sent over to Antonetti after they knocked out the Texas Rangers said, 'Now it's your turn,' which meant, take out the Red Sox and let's play.
Pluto argues that Toronto is the hottest team in baseball right now.
"They played all these big games down the stretch. They've got some really good players and they don't have three starting pitchers hurt, so it's going to be a challenge. They've got a bunch of guys who hit home runs. Their pitching staff was rated above the Indians.
Pluto says the Blue Jays led the American League in attendance this season.
"The Rogers Center is loud so it's going to be a big noisy crowd up there. And the Indians fans are really getting into it. And you have two front offices that do baseball the same way but the thing on the field is what settles it."
"It's a lot at stake for both. Everything [the Indians] do surprises me and nothing they do surprises me. because they've had so many unlikely heroes. And there will be more, and I just hope the magic dust sticks around a few more weeks and gets them to the World Series."