Hey, what’s going on? I’ve been busy this spring and summer, so there hasn’t been much blogging of late. I’ve found a little time though and with the Washington Nationals headed to Cleveland, I have asked my former colleague Vince Guerrieri (not pictured) to answer some questions about his beloved Tribe. Some say he’s the best freelance writer in Ohio. He’s also a newspaper editor as well as the author of Ohio Sports Trivia and The Blue Streaks and Little Giants: More Than a Century of Sandusky and Fremont Ross Football.. Vince also contributed to Tim Russert’s Wisdom of Our Fathers. Someday, he’s going to write the definitive biography of Jim Trafficant as well, can’t wait.
WFY: The last time we talked baseball here, the Cleveland Indians were coming off of the Manny Acta Experience, 2.0. Terry Francona was in his first year and that team lost the play-in game I think. Now, the Tribe has the largest divisional lead in the American League. What’s working for this year’s team? Is there optimism from the fans?
VG: The Tribe did win a wild card in year one of the Francona era, and lost the wild card game at home. They’ve finished at .500 or better in both years since, and three straight years of that is quite an achievement in Cleveland baseball.
The short answer to what’s working? Everything. They’ve got a strong starting rotation, and the offense is scoring five runs a game — and that’s WITHOUT Silver Slugger Michael Brantley. And not only are people starting to buy in, the Cavs have tapped a vein of optimism.
WFY: Beyond baseball, Cleveland’s doing okay this summer — the prodigal son came home and won a title, but not just a title. A comeback over the best regular season team in NBA history. The first title since LBJ was president. You got to cover the Republican National Convention and nothing caught on fire. Great Lakes Oktoberfest is only a month or two, if not weeks away! How much fun has it been on the shores of Lake Erie this summer?
VG: Everyone loves everyone! I didn’t actually cover the RNC (the closest I came was just across the river for a Daily Show recording … and I had a couple Great Lakes Cream Ales), but it went about as well as could be hoped for. I thought the Cavs were dead and buried after Game 4 of the Finals, and I’ve never been happier to be wrong.
WFY: How is attendance at The Jake this year? It was down in 2013, has it rebounded?
VG: Well, renovations and additions took out about 10,000 seats from the ballpark’s peak, so small crowds don’t look as small as they used to. Attendance has picked up in the past two weeks (right around the time the team was setting a record with a 14-game winning streak), but the RNC put the Tribe on an almost two-week road trip. So we’ve got a division-leading team with a lot of home games coming up. We’ll see what happens.
WFY: Chief Wahoo is being phased out, right for a block, serifed C, correct? How is that going over? I am anti-cartoon in any form on a major league cap and believe the letter(s) of the city is the only appropriate insignia, so I’m on board.
VG: The problem is that the team seems to want it both ways. They’re not completely eliminating the Chief, but they are phasing it out. And nobody’s happy. The anti-Chief faction wants it completely gone, and there are still fans who cling to the Chief out of nostalgia or something.
WFY: We’ve got two, two-game series over the next few weeks. Who do you think takes these four games, DC or CLE? Any chance you’ll be in our nation’s capital for the second series? Maybe in 2019, I’ll make it out to Cleveland with the Nats.
VG: I will miss the games at Nats Park. I think the Tribe wins both at home and loses one or both in DC.
WFY: How far do you think the Tribe is going to go this year? What about the Nats?
VG: I think they’re both in good spots, leading mediocre divisions. If the Tribe clinches the division early enough and sets the postseason rotation (and maybe makes a deal before the deadline), then the sky’s the limit.
As for the Nats, well, it looks like they might run into the Giants, and it is an even-numbered year…
WFY: Okay, thanks Vince. I might have to start doing football Q&As again in the fall just to talk about the Browns.