The 2009 Baseball Prospectus has projected the Indians to win their division with an 83-79 record. Not too shabby, but can Clevelanders realistically hope that Minnesota and Chicago will regress that much and that Detroit and KC won't be competitive? I'm not holding my breath. As many things have to go right for the tribe this year as went wrong last year. Kerry Wood has to be the closer the Indians have not had since Doug Jones. Cliff Lee has to repeat as the American League Cy Young Award winner. Fausto Carmona has to regain his superb (and surprising) 2007 form in which he was second in the AL in ERA. Jake Westbrook has to recover from elbow surgery early and return to the rotation to stabilize it. Travis Hafner has to get over the shoulder woes and produce big numbers like he did in 2006. Grady has to be Grady, but better. Victor needs to be Victor, but healthier. Derosa needs to be the second coming of Travis Fryman. Ben Francisco better hit like he did in the minors. Asdrubal Cabrera needs to be the impetus he was after being installed at second base as well as second in the batting order. Shin Soo-Choo's train keeps rolling. Garko lives up to expectations. Pavano chips in well enough to keep him in the rotation. Sowers finds his lost karma.
And that's just the veterans.
There are many question marks as to who and when will be able to help the Indians this year. I don't think any of the young outfielders will be making a big contribution early unless LaPorta or Crowe has a phenomenal spring. The infield is pretty well set, but maybe Marte can recover his magic or Beau Mills can make a strong enough impression that if and when the Indians need to inject some fresh blood into the lineup, he is able to provide it. Can Adam Miller live up to his potential? Will David Huff or another young stud pitcher (Scott Lewis, Aaron Laffey) be able to make the big jump and contribute right away? Will anyone step up to help the bullpen that led the Indians' collapse last year?
Only time will tell. But, as in all years, hope springs eternal, especially in the minds of long-suffering Indians fans.