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Why Terry Pluto is 'guarded' about writing off the Guardians

Cleveland Guardians T-shirt and hat
Gabriel Kramer
/
Ideastream Public Media
Cleveland's pro baseball team is set to begin its first season under its new name, the Guardians, April 7 in Kansas City.

With just about a week until Opening Day, Cleveland’s baseball team begins the season with a new name and largely the same roster. The Guardians made virtually no offseason moves, getting an ‘F’ grade from ESPN.

Commentator Terry Pluto talked talked about what he's expecting as he travels to Spring Training in Goodyear, Ariz., this week.

As for the offseason, Pluto said, "They actually didn't get rid of any good players, nor do they bring any in."

Their one move was bringing back reliever Bryan Shaw, certainly enough to get the fan base criticizing team owner Paul Dolan for failing to spend money to bring in some hitters.

Keeping it in perspective
Pluto urges fans to keep something in perspective:

"Suppose the Browns in the last nine years had eight winning seasons. And suppose the Browns had gone to the playoffs five times in those last nine years. And suppose the Browns even went to the Super Bowl once, though they lost. And suppose in those last nine years, the Browns worst season was frankly like last year, where they were 8-9. That's Cleveland baseball. For the last nine years, they've been very good." Pluto said.

"The front office and the baseball people like to say, 'Can you give us a little credit for even though we don't have a big budget that we really do sort of know [what] we're doing?'"
Terry Pluto

He says the last nine years have been a stark contrast to the teams of other decades.

"If you grew up the team in the 60s as I did, or you could say the 70s, or you could say the 80s early 90s, you didn't see anything like this. The Guardians' worst season was last year, and their record was two under 500," Pluto said.

"The front office and the baseball people like to say, 'Can you give us a little credit for even though we don't have a big budget that we really do sort of know [what] we're doing?'"

The front office
Pluto said that's because the team has kept its core group in the front office: Chris Antonetti, president; Mike Chernoff, general manager; and Terry Francona, manager.

"That's why I'm always a little 'guarded' to write off the Guardians. It's because of what I've seen for the last nine years," he said.

Another positive move for team was extending the lease at Progressive Field until 2036.

"That's a critical thing. You have to be — again, fans of a certain age — we grew up with periodic rumors every three-to- five years the team was going to move," Pluto said.

Still, fans want to know where the talent is. And Pluto said Chris Antonetti had an answer.

"[Antonetti] said that for the last few years, they were trading some of their top guys like Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and Corey Kluber. But he said they did it to restock the farm system and that it's time to let some of these guys play.

Restocking the farm system
Pluto said the Trevor Bauer trade produced Franmil Reyes, the big hitter in the middle of the lineup. The Mike Clevinger deal brought in Cal Quantrill, who became a good starter last year, along with starting catcher Austin Hedges and outfielder Josh Naylor, who's coming back from a broken leg. Pluto said they also have a shortstop he's anxious to see named named Gabriel Arias.

Still, Pluto said he'd like for the team to bring in "one real outfielder who can hit."

"... they're not going to be terrible. They haven't been terrible. They're not going to be terrible. That team that went 80-82 last year is virtually all coming back."
Terry Pluto

The search for a minority owner
Pluto says that while he's at Spring Training, he'll try to find more details about the team bringing in a minority owner.

"David Blitzer is the guy who they're apparently negotiating with to become a minor owner. But I do know this, even if that deal were to be announced tomorrow, it's not going to be a big boost in the payroll or anything, but it would help," he said.

Pluto said one thing that would help fans feel a little more secure would be if the team signed third baseman Jose Ramirez and pitcher Shane Bieber to long-term deals.

"That would be nice if you could say where these guys are going to be locked up, but neither one of those guys go anywhere for a couple of years," Pluto said.

Lastly, Pluto encourages fans to be optimistic.

"Because they're not going to be terrible. They haven't been terrible. They're not going to be terrible. That team that went 80-82 last year is virtually all coming back."

Stay Connected
Amanda Rabinowitz is the host of “All Things Considered” on Ideastream Public Media.