Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report's Cleveland Indians fans weigh-in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.
This week, we discuss the impact of rainouts on momentum, ponder the severity of Grady Sizemore's injury, share our feelings on interleague play, and hand out a couple of early awards.
I would like to thank this week's participants Dale Thomas and Jim Piascik for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch your thoughts on the questions we're addressing this week.
1. The Indians got some bad news at the beginning of the week when it was decided that Grady Sizemore would go on the DL for a right knee injury.
Obviously losing a good player to injury is always bad news, but how much do you think losing Grady will affect the Indians success?
What's your opinion on Sizemore's injury? Do you think this was mostly precautionary or do you think this is a sign he's going to struggle with injury all season long?
If it was a precautionary move, do you agree with it? Is it better to be safe than sorry? Would your answer be different if it was late in the season and the Indians were in a tight pennant race?
Samantha Bunten: Grady Sizemore is the kind of guy whose leg could fall off and he'd still try to go out there and finish the game. That's admirable if you're in the middle of the playoffs, but in May, it's just reckless.
I don't fault Grady for this - he just wants to play every day and refuses to give less than 110%, even if giving that much means playing injured. But the team was correct to place him on the DL as a precautionary measure.
I very much doubt the injury would have been aggravated much by playing on it, but I do think there is a chance he could have reinjured his other (more seriously damaged) knee in subconscious efforts to favor the bruised right knee.
The team also had to be mindful of the consequences of letting him play hurt in the sense of accountability. If he plays hurt and nothing happens, that's great. But if he plays hurt and winds up further injuring himself and missing the bulk of the season for the second year in a row, the Indians will have a lot of angry fans to answer to.
If this was August and the team was in a heated pennant race, I think you send him out there as long as all his limbs are still attached. But in May, and with a deep bench that has done a pretty good job filling in for injured players, it's a better safe than sorry situation: the DL is exactly where he belongs right now.
Dale Thomas: The Indians have enjoyed a mighty performance from their bench players this year. They've been able to step in and get the job done for the most part. Based on that and the overall performance of the starters, I don't think Grady's injury will impact the teams overall success in the short term.
That said, Grady is a key player and key contributor on both offense and defense. In the longer term, we need him on the roster. My understanding of the injury is that it is relatively minor and the Tribe elected to be cautious because it's so early in the season.
Grady would be playing if it were the home stretch for post season play in a tight pennant race. He's a total gamer.
I'm okay with the move at this stage in the season. It allows additional rest for his other knee, and helps ensure he doesn't re-injure that one while favoring the newly acquired bruise. Besides...all decisions are good when the team is winning, right?
Jim Piascik: Honestly, I think it was a precautionary move intended to protect Grady from himself. As I understand it, his injury is a bruise to his non-surgically repaired knee. He could easily play, but he would have to compensate onto the surgically repaired one.
This early in the season, the Indians can easily afford to rest him. In a pennant race, they may need him to tough it out, but thankfully Grady can rest and make sure he's ready to play long term.
2. After the Tribe's thrilling walk-off win last Friday, they were rewarded by the baseball gods for their efforts by not just one, but two rainouts in a row.
Momentum is important in baseball, and nothing kills the momentum a team gets from a walk-off homerun win like two days of rainouts.
The Indians have done a great of staying motivated after losing or when they're down a few runs in a game, but how much does two days off take the air out of the tires for a team that was poised to take advantage of coming off of a big, big win?
Do you think rainouts really kill the momentum for a team like this? Early on in a long season, do you think that really matters, or is this something that would have greater effect during the dog days of August when everyone is tired and beaten down?
What do you think is the best way a manager can keep a team that's been hot motivated to keep getting it done?
Samantha Bunten: Well, after seeing what the Indians did to Kansas City on Monday night, I'd have to say no, the rainouts didn't matter at all.
Had the Tribe not managed to eke out the win in the ninth on Friday night though, that would be different. Coming off a loss to a bad team followed up by two rainouts would surely have greatly hurt their momentum. Luckily that didn't happen, and the rainouts alone became a non-issue.
I do think these things have greater impact later in the season when everyone is tired and the daily grind has begun to take its toll. Depending how tired the Tribe is come August though, whether a rainout is a good thing or a bad thing may change.
You'll recall Crash Davis talking to his Bulls teammates and saying "What we need is a rainout". So sometimes rainouts actually help. After what we saw in Kansas City on Monday, it certainly appears that that's how it worked out for the Indians.
Dale Thomas: I might answer this differently had I not witnessed the 19-run motivational display by the Tribe when they totally KO'd KC pitching on Monday.
That aside, I think last year's team would have been highly dependent on the momentum gathered from a walk-off dinger like that. Their egos were as fragile as egg shells and they had no other source of motivation.
It's an entirely different kind of team this year. They've shown resilience and patience with pitcher's counts and swing for contact because they know the guy coming up after them will do the same. They play defense with an offensive mindset, gunning runners down from behind the plate or from the outfield. Solid gloves and confident throws by the infielders. Throwing strikes and pitching to the hitter's weaknesses. They expect to win and winning inspires more winning.
The manager can keep it all going by knowing what motivates his players and by having the tools at his disposal to keep it all tuned up. Manny has a 'no excuses, no guts no glory' approach, and he also has Orlando Cabrera... king of the locker room speech. It's a good thing too, because it rains every freakin' day in Cleveland.
Jim Piascik: I don't think these rainouts matter much. Nothing's slowed down the Indians much this year and I think these off-days will be used to rest up. It's a very long season and you can use every bit of rest you get.
This team seems to get what it takes to win and will do just fine. They'll utilize this time off to recharge the batteries and keep the winning up.
3. The Indians have a tough couple of series coming up over the next week and a half. They face division foes Kansas City and Chicago this week, followed by the red-hot Reds over the weekend, and then the rejuvenated Red Sox early next week.
Which of these teams do you think will give the Indians the most trouble? What do you think the keys are to winning each of these series?
Samantha Bunten: Far and away, the team I expect to give the Indians the most trouble is the Reds. While the Indians are a better team on paper (and almost 70 percentage points ahead of Cincinnati in their win-loss record, the Reds are a team with a similar makeup to that of the Indians and a formidable opponent.
They're also swinging very hot bats right now, just got a couple of key pitchers back from the DL, and have won eight of their last 10. Plus Mike Leake hasn't shoplifted anything in a whole month!
The key to beating the Reds will probably be controlling their bats and knocking starters out early to get to their bullpen, which has looked pretty shaky at times. This series has the potential for a lot of high-scoring games.
Boston should be beatable as long as our pitchers can control the number of runs scored, though they're a tough team to project the outcome for because they're kind of all over the place. I've seen them look like a world series contender this season, and I've also seen them play like the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, otherwise known as the worst team in baseball history who posted a record of 20-134.
Dale Thomas: I worry more about the Reds than any of those other teams. They have some magic of their own this year. I still think we can get to their bullpen though, and we have a good shot at keeping their hitters at bay. I think there will be plenty of offense on both sides, but I think our magic is more powerful than theirs thus far into the season.
The Red Sox have been a bit hard to predict. They lack consistency and depend on mistakes from their opposition. We need to continue to play mistake-free baseball, and we'll take that series.
I don't worry about Kansas City or Chicago. Chicago is a mess, and KC is right on schedule for their annual nose dive.
Jim Piascik: I think they should look out for the Reds. Cincinnati's been getting their starting pitchers back from injury and are starting to roll.
In my opinion, the key to winning any series is to play smart and not make mistakes. Draw walks and don't strikeout on offense, do the opposite on defense.
Specifically with the Reds, I think the Tribe will need to score early and often on their great starting pitching and watch out for that monster named Joey Votto.
4. With so many players on the Indians doing so well thus far this season, it's tough to say whose performance has been the absolute best of the lot.
They don't give out MVP or Cy Young awards in May, but if they did, who would you give them to on the Indians? Which pitcher has been the best of the group so far and why? Which position player has been tops for you and why?
Samantha Bunten: If I had to decide today, I'd give my Indians MVP to Michael Brantley. He's been tremendously valuable on both offense and defense, has shown he can mix in a little hitting for power with his impressive ability to hit for average, and he hustles all the time.
It's tough though, because I'd like to give the MVP to Asdrubal Cabrera too. This team, fortunately for us, has made it difficult to pick who has contributed the most among a group where pretty much everyone is contributing. I can think of four or five other guys who deserve consideration too. What a lovely problem to have.
As for the Cy Young, I'm giving mine to Josh Tomlin. With no disrespect to Justin Masterson, who has also been just fantastic so far, I think Tomlin has impressed me the most.
This is a guy who didn't even have a job with the team entering Spring Training, and now he's 5-1 as a starter with an ERA of 2.56 and a WHIP of 0.85. He has gone six-plus innings in every start and never given up more than three runs.
I will now do something I never thought I would do, which is to quote Trevor Crowe's Twitter: "You will Die! You will Pay Taxes! Josh Tomlin will give you 6 Strong Innings!"
Dale Thomas: I think my MVP goes to Michael Brantley. He rarely strikes out. I like that. Probably an emotional pick given the numbers and power put up by Asdrubal Cabrera. Hafner also gets a shout, but hey...I like guys who wear a glove sometimes.
Since I'm well on my way to going down the rat hole of listing everyone on the team, I think I'll save space and change my pick to the entire team…each individual guy is personally responsible for at least one win, give or take, so I guess my MVP goes to the Tribe. Can I do that? Kearns, or course, should start looking for a day job...
My Cy Young goes to Masterson for his 40 strikeouts against 17 walks. Okay, also because I have been meaner to him than any other Indians pitcher based on my trade rants of last season.
Jim Piascik: I actually just ranked the Indians roster 25 through 1, so you can check that out if you want. My number one player so far has been Asdrubal Cabrera. He may not be the defensive savant we all want him to be, but his offense is elite. He's been a key catalyst to the Tribe's offense all year.
My Cy Young award would go to Justin Masterson. I think Wednesday's loss to the White Sox is a perfect example of what Justin Masterson means to the Indians this year.
Eight innings pitched, only one run allowed, eight strikeouts and just two walks. He pitched the whole game and kept the Indians in it the whole time. He's been great for us all year and is looking more and more like the guy we were hoping to get when we traded Victor Martinez.
5. Fun Question of the Week: This weekend, the Indians have their first interleague series against the Cincinnati Reds. Opinions differ on whether interleague play is good or bad for baseball, and many of us have changed our mind about it over the years.
Tell us, are you in favor of interleague play or against it? Has your attitude toward it changed at all since the league first adopted it in 1997?
Samantha Bunten: I totally understand all of the arguments against interleague play: it takes away the opportunity to face teams in your own league more often, forces players and managers to spend ample amounts of time preparing for pitchers and hitters they'll only see once every three years, and attempts to manufacture rivalries that just don't have legs.
All of that is 100% true, and I felt just as negatively toward it as many of its detractors when it was first instituted. There's something that matters more than all that though that makes interleague play worthwhile: that is, it's entertaining. It sells tickets, and it sells a lot of them.
As a team plagued by poor attendance figures, we of all groups of fans should be grateful for interleague play. The bottom line is that we need the Tribe to sell tickets and we need fans to get out to the ballpark, and if what gets them there is the Reds coming up from Cincinnati for the weekend, then the Battle of Ohio is worth engaging in, whether it's a true rivalry or not.
Additionally, as a fan of baseball as a game and not just the Indians, I enjoy seeing other teams' ballparks, their fans, and their cities. When it comes down to it, it's simple: baseball is pretty awesome, and I want to see as much of what it has to offer as possible, no matter which league it came from.
Dale Thomas: I'm totally in favor of interleague play. It's great to see how we match up with the NL teams.
I know there's a lot of whining about "meaningless" games, and forced rivalries. There's even more whining about losing the DH at NL parks, and the argument that NL clubs bunt and pinch hit all year, and poor fragile AL pitchers have to swing the bat and blah, blah, blah...It's a long season.
Interleague offers some novelty and the ball parks are packed. Get over it.
Jim Piascik: I was only six when interleague play was adopted, so I've grown up with it. For the longest time I never understood how big of a deal it was. I do now though.
Despite all the history involved in keeping the leagues separate, I'm all for interleague play. I wish each team made it through the other league quicker (we probably won't play the Rockies again this decade), but on the whole I think it adds something good to baseball.