It’s early, but old-school approach suits Guardians

It’s early, but old-school approach suits Guardians

A few thoughts from the week in sports …

What team had the best record in all of Major League Baseball as of April 16? The answer is our Cleveland baseball team!

You know, the team with the nickname that many fans still don’t use or like, that did almost nothing in the offseason to improve its offense, that had the 26th lowest payroll and a first-time manager.

There’s a lot to smile about while watching the Cleveland Guardians early in this 2024 MLB season. The key word is early, but I’m still taking the time to really enjoy this fun start. New manager Steven Vogt is pulling all the right strings in what’s been a total team effort.

Cleveland improved to 12-5 after a 10-7 win in 11 innings over the Red Sox on Monday night. The Guardians’ .706 winning percentage was the best in baseball.

Sure, Cleveland was helped by getting several wins over weak A’s and White Sox teams early on, but on back-to-back days, the ballclub got wins in Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park in ways that surely showed there’s something special going on.

Cleveland had not had a pinch hit, go-ahead home run since Jason Giambi went deep against the White Sox in 2013. However, Estevan Florial came off the bench to blast a homer in a win at New York on April 14, and Will Brennan did it the very next day at Boston.

The Guardians still aren’t hitting a lot of home runs (18, tied seventh in AL) but have actually improved in that department after ranking last in all of MLB in 2023 with just 124.

Cleveland is doing just about everything else well to rank highly in the AL in batting (.259, fourth), runs (97, second), doubles (31, second), triples (4, T-first) and stolen bases (fourth, 15).

Steven Kwan was second in the AL in batting (.372), with Josh Naylor (.328, eighth) and Andres Gimenez (.303, 14th) also off to fast starts.

Jose Ramirez is arguably the most popular current Cleveland pro athlete in any sport and will go down as one of the franchise’s all-time best players. Ramirez was batting .247 with three homers and tied for third in the AL with 15 RBI.

The Guardians’ pitching staff is fifth in ERA (3.14) and seventh in strikeouts.

It’s been great to see closer Emmanuel Clase (1-0, 4 saves, 1.13 ERA) look sharp early on.

With ace Shane Bieber out for the year and Triston McKenzie struggling, the starting pitching is the biggest worry. The franchise has done a great job producing young mound talent, and I’m hoping Gavin “Big Rig” Williams will be strong when he returns from an injury.

It’s an old-school approach for Cleveland to make contact with the baseball, run the bases aggressively and grind out wins.

Competition can be a good thing within a roster. With many of the Guardians’ position players knowing they need to step up if they want to get playing time, everyone seems to be contributing.

It’s way too early to make any bold predictions about the Guardians, but they seem to have a roster that can make another run at the AL Central title. At the very least, they will play all out and be fun to watch.

NBA Playoffs

It’s winning time for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

As another reminder of how fast time goes by, it seems like just yesterday that Cavs fans were lamenting the team being pushed around by the New York Knicks in a first-round loss in the 2022-23 Eastern Conference playoffs.

Fast forward a full year and the Cavs are back in the playoffs, older, presumably wiser and with the home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

The fourth-seeded Cavs will tip off the 2023-24 playoffs by hosting the fifth-seeded Orlando Magic on Saturday.

There will be a ton on the line for the Cavs including the job of head coach JB Bickerstaff and possibly GM Koby Altman.

Although Cleveland (48-34) won just one more game than Orlando (47-35), most experts believe the more experienced Cavs should move on to the second round. The top-seeded Boston Celtics will most likely be the round two opponent.

The Cavs created a minor controversy by dropping the regular-season finale 120-110 against Charlotte after being outscored 18-2 down the stretch with all bench players on the court.

The Cavs clearly wanted to face the Magic instead of the Pacers and got their wish.

Everything will hinge upon the health of Donovan Mitchell. If Mitchell’s sore knees have healed up, he could lead a strong run, but even then it will be a mighty tough task to get past the Celtics.

With Bickerstaff’s job on the line, it will be interesting to see what combinations he uses. Darius Garland and Evan Mobley are tremendous talents, but the team has often played better with the likes of Isaac Okoro, Sam Merrill and Georges Niang complementing Mitchell and center Jarrett Allen.

Parting shots

The hot topic in the MLB early this season is injuries to starting pitchers and the pitching clock. Big names like Bieber, Yankees’ Gerrit Cole, Braves’ Spencer Strider, Dodgers’ Shoehei Ohtani, and Astros’ Justin Verlander and Framber Valdes have been out with arm problems.

The MLB Players Association is trying to argue that speeding up the game with pitch clock is not giving pitchers enough time between dealings to the plate.

That may be part of it, but I think it’s a factor of many things. You could trace the problem to how many innings pitchers throw going back to youth league, high school and college. Also, MLB teams are more obsessed than ever with chasing velocity, putting a huge premium on throwing as hard as possible.

How high fastballs register on the radar gun is celebrated at tryout camps and showcases as opposed to evaluating if someone hit their spots and change speeds. Think Greg Maddux.

—Congrats to Iowa’s Caitlin Clark on an amazing college basketball career and best wishes in the WNBA. Count me among the millions of fans who enjoyed watching Clark play and appreciated the overall women’s game more because of her.

The Iowa-LSU game was the most watched women’s game ever with 12.3 million viewers and attracted a bigger TV audience than the 2023 NBA Finals, World Series and every college football regular-season game except Ohio State vs. Michigan. The title game between Iowa and South Carolina then drew nearly 19 million viewers to raise the bar even farther.

Aaron Dorksen can be emailed at

Loading next article...

End of content

No more pages to load