The View From Pluto: The Heart Of The Indians' Historic Streak Is A Special Team Culture

Sep 13, 2017

The Indians have made history, winning their 20th straight game to tie a streak set by the Oakland A’s in 2002. A win on Wednesday would shatter a record on the books since 1935. The streak has propelled the team to the best record in the American League.

WKSU commentator Terry Pluto  says at the heart of all this winning is a special team culture.

Changing positions
Pluto says Tribe manager Terry Francona calls it being a great teammate. An example of that culture took shape this week, when the team announced second baseman Jason Kipnis would be making a position change to center field.

Kipnis has been hampered by injuries all season. He’s ready to come back from his recent stint on the disabled list. The problem is, red-hot third baseman Jose Ramirez has been filling in at second base…and doing a stellar job.

Meanwhile, rookie center field Bradley Zimmer broke his hand this past week and is done for the year. Francona calls a meeting with Kipnis. “In the back of his mind, [Kipnis] is already thinking, ‘I could maybe help in center field,’” Pluto says.

Kipnis was an All-American outfielder at Arizona State when the Indians drafted him in 2009. “But in his first year, they told him if you want to get to the majors quicker, we need a second baseman. So, he learned to play second base and within 18 months, he was in the big leagues,” Pluto says.

So, Kipnis is getting ready to take over in the outfield. “He could look very foolish out there. He hasn’t played out in the outfield since 2010,” Pluto says.

“But he said, ‘I did get hurt. We are winning. I’m coming back. And now I have to figure out how to fit in.’ Some players would frankly say, ‘look I’m a second baseman. Play me at second or I’ll see you next year.’”

A team culture
Pluto says Kipnis is one of about five players who have been willing to change positions in recent years.

Jose Ramirez originally was a shortstop. Then he played third. Now he's settling into second base. Carlos Santana moved from catcher to first base...and briefly spent time learning to play third base when the team needed that position filled.

Lonnie Chisenhall was drafted as a third baseman. He now plays in the outfield. And on the pitching staff, they’ve had guys go from starting rotation to the bullpen. 

"This may sound like not a big deal, but it’s one thing to change positions in the minors where hardly anybody is watching. It’s another to do it in the big leagues," Pluto says. 

"Talk about teams overachieving -- this is an element to it. And you can just see how they’re pulling for each other."