5/20/2013 7:40 P.M. ET
Now may be the time to believe in the Indians
Streaking Tribe makes AL Central one of baseball's toughest divisions
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- All right, fine, I'll bite:
I believe in the Indians.
I believe that what's happening these last few weeks -- the wins in 18 of their last 22, the plus-54 run differential in that span, the relentless pursuit of runs, even against Cy-caliber arms and the opportunistic approach to the late innings -- is more omen than mirage.
I believe that this is a deeper, more balanced, more complex club than the ones that faded -- and faded thoroughly -- in 2011 and '12.
I believe that while a manager's in-game effect is often overstated, the best ones know how to instill a culture of camaraderie and confidence, and that's what Terry Francona has done here.
I believe Francona when he praises the job first-year pitching coach Mickey Callaway has done with the pitching staff, which is exceeding all expectations.
I don't believe that the rotation will sustain a 3.24 ERA (which is what it has posted in this 22-game stretch) over the long haul, but I do believe that it doesn't necessarily have to.
I believe a versatile lineup with a deep bench, an array of switch-hitters and a ton of speed and power is dangerous enough that you need only an average assemblage of starting arms to survive.
I believe that, one way or another, the Indians can patch together at least an average rotation, particularly with the way Justin Masterson and Zach McAllister have looked from Day 1 and the way Ubaldo Jimenez has been pitching lately.
I believe bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. when he says this team has that "'95 style. You just come to the ballpark expecting to win and never say die."
I also believe Alomar when he compares this club to ones of recent past and says, "We have more depth. When you give guys a rest, you're not losing anything. That's the big difference between the past and now. You've got guys with track records -- like Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn and Jason Giambi -- who have been in winning situations before and can help the young guys stay on the path and keep from collapsing."
I believe that feeling rubs off on guys like Ryan Raburn and Yan Gomes and helps them make the most of their limited playing time.
I believe the Indians are not one injury away from a complete collapse at any given moment, as they were in '11 and '12.
I believe that if the Indians are still in the hunt come July, general manager Chris Antonetti will try to be as creative and aggressive in the summer trade market as he was in the winter one.
I believe his aggressiveness and creativity won't have to be quite as desperate as it was in '11, when he sold the farm for Ubaldo.
I believe that there won't be many days like Monday, when Vinnie Pestano, Chris Perez and Joe Smith each served up a late-inning home run.
I believe that the Indians were awfully lucky to win a game in which Pestano, Perez and Smith each served up a late-inning home run.
I believe it's better to be lucky than good.
I believe the Indians are both.
I believe the AL Central is more interesting than expected.
I believe the Tigers' bullpen is making it more interesting than expected.
I believe the next two days, when the Indians face the Tigers' Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in succession, will tell us quite a bit about the current state of both clubs.
I believe we'll probably read too much into the results.
I believe it's also kind of fun to read too much into the results.
I believe that it's the eighth week of a six-month baseball season, so my beliefs are very much subject to change.
I believe that, in Cleveland especially, some part of you is always waiting for the catch, the drawback, the booby trap.
But I believe that it's hard to watch a team win 18 of 22, sometimes in the wildest of ways, and not believe.