Have the 2015 Cleveland Indians fallen victim of a curse, or simply cursed with expectations? Many analysts across the nation picked this Indians team as one of the best teams in the American League. Sports Illustrated, a highly reputable sports magazine even picked the Indians as one their favorites to win the World Series. However, with praise from Sports Illustrated it is also believed there is a curse that follows its cover athletes or team.
The 1987 Cleveland Indians supposedly fell victim to the SI curse. Sports Illustrated favored that team as well, and the result? A 61-101 record, and the worst record in the American League.
So would 2015 be a different result? Was 1987 just a fluke? Well, so far in 2015, it looks like history is repeating itself. The Indians are now 14-22 and last in the American League. Does this mean that the SI Cover Curse lives? Well, 36 games into a 162 game season it’s probably still too early to call the Indians season a failure.
The pitching staff hasn’t repeated the success it had in 2014. The bullpen hasn’t been lockdown and the offense has struggled, but it’s not due to Sports Illustrated. Instead, the Cleveland Indians have fallen into the curse of.. expectations.
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Okay, what is the curse of expectations? For the Cleveland Indians that’s the belief that this team was ready and expected to compete in 2015. Hyped by the national media, the reality is that this Indians team is still very young. Sure the team consists of an experienced manager in Terry Francona, the reigning AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, and potential MVP candidate Michael Brantley, but the rest of the starting pitching rotation, the bullpen, and the offense are young and trying to find themselves and find consistency.
Jul 19, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com wrote about the expectations GM Chris Antonetti and Manager Terry Francona had for this rotation coming out of spring training.
However the results are mixed so far in 2015.
The team brought Carlos Carrasco back to the starting rotation from the bullpen in 2014. He responded by going 5-3 with a 1.30 ERA in ten starts. Carrasco has posted a mediocre 4-3 record and 4.84 ERA so far in 2015. Bauer meanwhile has been solid, starting out 2-1 with a 3.67 ERA and 44 strikeouts in seven starts. Salazar started the season at AAA, but rejoined the club and posted a 4-1 record with a 3.27 ERA in 5 starts.
While those look like good numbers now, Salazar starting the season in AAA shows that these two are still capable of falling apart. Good examples might be House and McAllister who have struggled posting an 0-5 record and falling out of the rotation. Even Cy Young Corey Kluber (1-5, 4.27 ERA) hasn’t had the start to 2015 he would like. Far from what anyone expected.
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Apr 8, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Cody Allen (37) reacts after getting the final out during the ninth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. The Indians defeated the Astros 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
So the starting rotation is a bit shaky, thankfully there’s the great bullpen right? Much of the same players were returning, Cody Allen looked to follow-up a great 2014 season as a closer, while stalwarts Brian Shaw, Nick Hagadone, and Scott Atchison looked to continue lock down games.
Well, so far in 2015 Cody Allen (0-2, 7.62 ERA) has struggled to regain his dominate closing form, while Shaw (0-1, 2.13 ERA), Hagadone (0-0, 5.40), Atchison (0-1, 4.50 ERA) haven’t been able to lock down leads or hold opposing offenses off like a year ago.
A shaky bullpen always spells trouble, but they can rebound. However, it’s a far cry from expectations.
Then there’s the offense. As of April 23rd, the Indians offense hit .220 and scored 44 runs according to Jim Ingraham of the News Herald. The team struggled to score, and often left the starting pitching with little to no run support.
Since that time the Indians have found a bit of an offensive rhythm thanks to the hot hitting of Jason Kipnis (.517 in May) and Michael Brantley (.358 in May). Much of the team is still hitting under .250 though, and core players like Carlos Santana (.220) and Lonnie Chisenhall (.235) are among the biggest disappointments thus far, while guys like Nick Swisher (.257), Michael Bourn (.232), and Brandon Moss (.237) haven’t lived up to their free agency cost.
Sep 28, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians left fielder Michael Brantley (23) and second baseman Jason Kipnis (22) leave the field after the Indians
So in the end is it the SI curse or just a failure by the team to meet its lofty expectations? I choose to prefer the latter. The Indians of 2013 were a fluke, making the wild card playoff by riding a 10-game winning streak at the end of the year. The 2014 Indians are a better comparison of what to expect for the 2015 Indians. They are a young team still trying to find themselves and establish their talent at the Major League level.
They will have hot streaks and cold streaks, ups and downs, and they will get better as the season goes on. But I don’t believe that the Cleveland Indians will go 61-101 like the team of 1987.
Cleveland will end up with a record close to .500, and while that will fall short of expectations, the team will grow from this year. That’s all that should have been expected from this team to begin with.
What do you think? Have the 2015 Cleveland Indians fallen victim to the Sports Illustrated curse or just the curse of expectations?