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The View From Pluto: The Indians Prove Their Star Power

Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Indians have six All-Stars. From the left, Yan Gomes, Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Michael Brantley

The American League beat the National League in last night’s All-Star game, 8-6 in 10 innings. 

The Indians sent six players to Washington, their most since 1999.

Catcher Yan Gomes was named an All-Star for the first time in his career, to replace injured Tampa Bay catcher Wilson Ramos. Gomes joined Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Michael Brantley, Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber. Kluber didn’t play after receiving an injection in his knee.

WKSU commentator Terry Pluto said there are a couple of unlikely stars on this Indians team.

The diamond in the rough
Jose Ramirez is a two-time All-Star, but the third baseman wasn't a top prospect. At five feet nine inches, he was told he was too small to be a Big Leaguer. 

"The Indians found him in the Dominican [Republic] on a back diamond and signed him for $50,000, which is not much money for there," Pluto said. "The moment he arrived, he started hitting .300."

Heading into the All-Star break, Ramirez is tied for the Major League lead in home runs at 29. He became the fifth player in history to have 25 homers and 20 stolen bases before the All-Star break. 

The anointed one
Ramirez came up in the majors at the same time as shortstop Francisco Lindor, but their paths were much different. 

"Lindor was a top prospect in 2011 and was the seventh overall pick in the draft. He received bonuses of about $2 million. He was the anointed one," Pluto said.

Lindor has hit 25 home runs so far this season and is closing in on a number of Indians and Major League Baseball records. This is Lindor's third All-Star game. 

The comeback
Outfielder Michael Brantley is an All-Star for the third time in his career. And he's had plenty of ups and downs in the last couple of seasons. 

Brantley played just 101 combined games in 2016 and 2017 after having two shoulder surgeries and an ankle injury. The Indians were criticized for picking up his $12 million option for 2018. Heading into the All-Star break, he's batting .308 with 12 home runs and 56 Runs Batted In.

"Brantley was first known as 'the player to be named later'," Pluto said. "He was acquired as an afterthought in the C.C. Sabathia trade with Milwaukee in 2008. Once he got established in the Big Leagues about five years ago, you knew he was going to hit .300. His swing is so sweet and so pure."

The aces
The Indians had two pitchers in the All-Star game -- Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber

Bauer ranks second in the American League in Earned Run Average (2.24) and third in strikeouts (175).

"The Indians were mesmerized by Bauer who was a star at UCLA," Pluto said.

Bauer was selected third by Arizona in 2011.

"Sometimes you fall in love with a player in the draft, and you don't get him. But you keep him on the radar screen," Pluto said. "Arizona got tired of Trevor's weird theories and his ego that he had, especially when he was younger. The indians got him in 2013. They were patient with him, and now he's developed into an All-Star."

Kluber is a two-time Cy Young Award winner and is having another stellar season. But he wasn't always considered to be the best. 

"Back in 2010, the Indians were looking to dump Jake Westbrook's contract," Pluto said. "They get Kluber. He wasn't even among the top 30 prospects on the San Diego Padres team. He breaks through in 2013, and from there he takes off. Nobody saw that coming."

A team that's for real
And Pluto said the eclectic group is what makes this team so special and so exciting to watch.

"A lot of times you look at All-Star teams in other sports, most of them are top picks. They were the guys who were anointed earlier," he said.

"It's not easy to make an All-Star team from Clevelend. You're not on national TV. So when these guys get voted in or even selected, it's because they're really good," Pluto said. "This is going to be the fourth in the last six years they've been in the playoffs. This team is for real."