There aren’t too many better things in life than a summer day in downtown Cleveland, either in the bleachers of Progressive Field or across the street at the Thirsty Parrot, cheering on a Cleveland Guardians team that’s playing well. In their first season with the flying G logo and a new name — honoring one of the city’s bridges — the baseball team in Northeast Ohio exceeded everyone’s expectations.
Last year, the aura around the new-look Cleveland baseball team was one of rebuilding; give the young guys some reps, let the manager work out some health issues, and just try not to finish at the bottom of the worst division in baseball. What looked like a season with very little promise, wound up as a catalyst for true potential…
The Guardos finished 2022 with a respectable 92-70 record, good enough to be king turds of the poop mountain that was (and still may be) the American League Central division. What followed was a nifty little playoff run.
Cleveland made quick work of the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card Round, winning back-to-back games in the best of three series. Then they got their chance to face off against home run king, Aaron Judge.
Fall matchups against the pinstripes haven’t been too kind to fans of Northeast Ohio baseball. The Yankees have been responsible for three of the last four postseason exits for the baseball team in Cleveland; last year was the first for them as the Guardians. But in that 3-2 series loss, there was enough evidence that this is a team that could be special.
Las Vegas has set the over/under on wins for the Cleveland squad at 87.5 games.
2023 Cleveland Guardians O/U: Why the Guardians Will Hit the Over
1. Big fish small pond
Believe it or not, the AL Central still is predicted to be the worst division in MLB. Maybe the NL Central can surmount its AL counterpart, but even so, it’s not like this is a division full of world-beaters.
The Guardians benefitted last year by playing a style of baseball you don’t see much in today’s boom or bust, homerun or strikeout game. This is a team that was able to get runners on base with smart hitting and working pitch counts. The level of competition within the division shouldn’t prove to be too fierce once again this season, so look to see the Guardos win their fair share of series against the lowly likes of the White Sox, Tigers, Royals, and Twins.
2. A core of young players who were battle-tested last year
There’s a reason locals were calling this team the ‘Guardiac Kids’ last year; an homage to the professional football team’s old-school moniker, Cardiac Kids. Not only did they find themselves in exciting close games throughout the year, but some of their biggest contributors were rookies. Despite their youth, this is a team that found ways to win in crunch time. In games that were tied up in the ninth inning, the Guardians had a record of 17-7.
José Ramírez was already pegged as a leader of the team and someone well worth the seven-year / $141M contract he signed, but it was young guys who’d be some of the biggest contributors to their season. Leadoff man, Steven Kwan, was essentially an on-base machine, working pitch counts and spraying hits into all sorts of gaps. He’d have such an incredible rookie season that he’d almost win AL Rookie of the Year (he’d finish in third).
Then, there was outfielder Oscar Gonzalez. He would become as famous for his postseason walk-off runs as he was for his walk-up song, the Spongebob Squarepants theme; inspiring young baseball fans to dress as their favorite character who lives in a pineapple under the sea. Guardiac Kids, indeed.
The young Guardians entered the postseason as the youngest roster in baseball. There was little expectation for them to make much noise in October, but they swept a Rays team and fought hard against an overmatched Yankee squad. This team has been battle tested and has proved it can play with just about anyone.
3. Terry Francona isn’t going anywhere
2022’s AL Manager of the Year is coming back. Last year was his third time taking home the hardware.
The skipper has battled health issues, a stolen (and eventually returned) scooter, and contemplated hanging it up after last season. But if anyone knows how much potential this young team has, it’s Tito. Francona ultimately decided to stave off retirement for what will be his 11th season managing the team on the corner of Carnegie & Ontario. He’s a legend in all corners of baseball but could go down as one of the immortals if he leads this Cleveland team of youngsters to a pennant. Tito didn’t sign up for another season just to win less than 87 games.