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Terry Pluto: For the Indians, it won't be this easy next season
Terry Pluto says there's plenty of uncertainly about 2014 and the added pressure to not only make the playoffs again, but win
by WKSU's AMANDA RABINOWITZ


Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
 
The Indians went from a 68-94 record in 2012 to a 92-70 mark this year.
Courtesy of David Maxwell/Getty Images
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Many Cleveland sports fans are still buzzing about the Indians’ remarkable season that took from losing 94 games last season, to winning 92 games this year and making the playoffs. But the team under veteran manager Terry Francona now faces the pressure of keeping the momentum going.

WKSU commentator Terry Pluto talks about the challenges facing the Tribe following their winning season.

LISTEN: Pluto on Indians' 2014 pressure

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2014 will be tougher than this year
Momentum is good, says Terry Pluto, but it’s not everything. And that’s something the Indians need to be cognizant of going into the 2014 season. “In some ways it’s harder” to go from good team to good team, than to be the team that turned it around.

This year, “if you think about it, all the news went from bad to good. (Manager Terry) Francona comes in, they sign Nick Swisher, they sign Michael Bourn. Real Major League players, the kind of players that don’t sign here. They made a couple of nice trades.”

In short, in 2013, “There wasn’t anything that I sat there and go, ‘What are they doing?’ like a couple years ago (when) they signed Grady Sizemore to a $5 million contract after he played only three weeks and had three knee surgeries.”

Until this year, says Pluto, “not only were they shopping rummage-sale basements, but they were picking up socks that still had holes in them. “And it all changed in one winter.”

Possibly losing key pitchers
Among the changes, starter Ubaldo Jimenez “finally figures out how to pitch…He was arguably the best American League starter the second half of the season.”

But he’s a free agent now, and “the odds overwhelmingly are he will not be back. Someone’s going to throw zillions of bucks at this guy.”

The Indians may have more hope of holding onto another free agent, starter Scott Kazmir, whom most baseball teams had given up on.

A second-year manager
But “there’s nothing quite like the honeymoon period and the novelty, when you come in as a manager of a bad team (armed with) two World Series rings. The players haven’t heard your stories, they haven’t seen your motivational techniques. Everything is new.

And Francona used that. “No doubt he pulled out some of his best stuff,” including finding a way to end an eight-game losing streak. But next year, says Pluto, “I think it will be a little harder for him.”

Extra money already spent
The team spent more money than it has in recent years signing free agents. And next year, each Major League team will get an extra $20 million from a new national TV contract, but Pluto notes that some of that money already is committed to boosts of $12 million in Swisher’s and Bourn’s contracts. So to fill holes, the Indians “are going to have to do it with younger guys and smart trades.”

Bringing back the fans
One big thing the Indians may have going for them next year over this: fan interest.

“Francona had an interesting remark” about the playoffs, Pluto recalls. “He said when he came out of the dugout for the playoff game and saw everybody standing and waving the towels and wearing red, he goes, ‘It was so loud and I just sensed a lot of these people have been waiting all year to do this…We really want to give them more games like that next year.”

So, Pluto says, the Indians solidified their base, gave lifetime fans a reason to stay loyal and across baseball “will be taken seriously.”

 

LISTEN: Terry Pluto on Browns quarterback debacle
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MP3 Download
(6:06)

Related WKSU Stories

Pluto: Can Cleveland sports fans handle winning?
Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Indians season ends on a note of hope and a familiar refrain: Wait 'til next year
Thursday, October 3, 2013

Indians lose to Rays, ending further playoff hopes
Thursday, October 3, 2013

Terry Francona before the AL Wild Card game, and a quick primer
Wednesday, October 2, 2013

If history is any indication, this is the Indians' year
Wednesday, October 2, 2013

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