Monday, September 25, 2017 Elyria 83°


Chris Assenheimer: Indians, Central Division champs ... don't be afraid to say it


I know it’s Cleveland, land of the sports losers, home of the heartbreak and all, but I think it’s safe to go ahead and say it.
“Cleveland Indians, Central Division champions.”
Barring a catastrophic collapse, say maybe like the one that took place during the 2005 season, the Indians will win their first division title since 2001 — just as I told you back in July (well, kind of, I didn’t think they’d win the division, but I did say they’d make the playoffs).
Cleveland leads the defending American League champion Tigers by 5½ games through Friday, with 14 games left for Detroit and 15 for the Indians, who host the Tigers in a three-game series beginning Monday.
That means Detroit would have to go 10-4 over the remainder of the regular season, while the Indians post a 5-10 record, for the Tigers to catch Cleveland in the division standings.
It’s certainly possible, but highly improbable.    
Not that these Indians didn’t give you all a scare.
It appeared the cast (Cleveland’s offense) had already been assembled to star in the sequel to “The Choke: Cleveland’s 2005 season,” when Indians hitters began the second half of the season on a lengthy collective slump.
But steady starting pitching carried the Indians through the rough waters, and now the offense is beginning to pick up steam.
Throughout it all, the Indians had the painful reminder of a 2005 season that ended with them blowing the wild-card lead over the final week. Was it a good learning experience?
“There’s really nothing positive to take out of what happened in the ’05 season,” said third baseman Casey Blake. “I don’t know that there were any lessons to learn. I don’t think we really think about that at all.
“I think it’s just important to focus on what we’re doing right now.”
What they’re doing right now is marching toward a division title.
Go ahead and say it.

The Big Cy?

If C.C. Sabathia doesn’t win the American League’s Cy Young Award, Indians closer Joe Borowski thinks it will be a product of the big left-hander’s environment.
“He’s not in a big market,” Borowski said. “You turn on ESPN (Friday) and everything isn’t about anything but the Yankees-Red Sox series. I mean, that’s unfortunate.
“Everything is centered around those two teams and it’s unfortunate because, I’ll tell you what, there are a lot of good baseball players who are extremely good that don’t play for those teams and don’t get no credit whatsoever, and it’s a shame.”
A pair of writers from every city with an AL team gets a vote for the Cy, so there’s hope for Sabathia and Borowski.
“I think everybody in this league and everybody on this team knows exactly what (Sabathia) can do,” Borowski said. “It is what it is, and you make do with it. But we’d never be where we are without C.C. I always heard about him.
“This is my first year here, and I always heard about him, and he’s more than I could have ever thought he would be as a pitcher. You know what you’re going to get from C.C. every time — seven strong innings every time out there. It’s amazing.”

Something to play for

The Indians, it seems, would benefit more than any of their potential playoff counterparts — Angels, Yankees and Red Sox — under the new Division Series format.
The team with the American League’s best record can choose whether it wants an extra off-day between Games 4 and 5, which, with an off-day between Games 1 and 2, would allow the club to bring back its top two starters on full rest for the final two games of the series.
That means Sabathia and Fausto Carmona can pitch in four of the five games — a decided advantage for the Indians. Only Boston’s Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling come close.
Through Friday, the Red Sox led the Indians and Angels by three in the win department for the league’s best record.

Sweet 15

As I write this on the 15th day of September, it is fitting that Indians fans celebrate their team sporting three pitchers with at least 15 wins apiece — Sabathia (17), Carmona (16) and Paul Byrd (15).
The Indians are the only team in the majors to have accomplished as much.
Byrd has had a good season, one of his best, but he’s gotten an inordinate amount of run support, compared to his two star-studded rotation mates.
Sabathia and Carmona could easily both be 20-game winners — had Cleveland’s offense not fallen asleep for a lengthy spell in the second half.

On the move?

Assistant general manager Chris Antonetti is rumored to be the favorite for the open Pittsburgh Pirates general manager job.
Antonetti is a young up-and-comer in the administrative field, but he’s close to GM Mark Shapiro (his right-hand man), and it’s going to take a lot (i.e. money) for him to leave the wigwam.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or 

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