Baseball is about anticipation.
When the Rays' Carlos Pena came to the plate Thursday night against the Indians at Progressive Field, the Indians put on a shift. Everyone moved to their left. Second baseman Jason Kipnis, a former outfielder, played a position that only could be described as short right field. It reminded me of where the outfielders used to stand when I came up to the plate in my youth.
It looked strange, but it was effective. Three times, Pena slapped the ball right to where Kipnis was standing, and an out was recorded.
It showed the value of scouting a hitter.
But anticipation is all over the sport, especially this time of year. With about three weeks to the trading deadline, fans of contenders are looking for a veteran to push their teams to the playoffs. Mediocre teams are looking to sell off their best parts for prospects.
But it's always a gamble. The Indians know this all too well. The franchise traded Cy Young winners in back-to-back seasons, and so for all they have to show for it on the big league roster is decent outfielder Michael Brantley and backup catcher Lou Marson.
Last year the Tribe, believing it was in the AL Central race, sent two top pitching prospects to Colorado for Ubaldo Jimenez, expecting the starter to pitch like and ace and keep them near the top of the standings.
The Indians finished 80-82. Jimenez didn't help much last year, and has been a mixed bag this season.
The reality is, whether as a fan, reporter or a member of an organization, one never knows what will happen. It's only an educated guess.
It isn't anything new. Recently, the Indians' television network - SportsTime Ohio - aired a promotional video the team produced for the 1983 season. It started as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Municipal Stadium (yeah, that needed to be celebrated by a baseball team), but quickly morphed into a rah-rah piece for the Tribe's upcoming year.
It's unintentionally hilarious to hear the late Nev Chandler (the wonderful former announcer who narrated the piece) laud the play of utility infielder Alan Bannister (.267 batting average, four homers) as a cog of future success.
Equally as amusing is a section on Indians base stealers who were able to "ride like the wind," which immediately cued Christopher Cross' song of that name. Because, when I think of fist-pumping stadium anthems, I think of Cross.
That leads to the exciting trades the team made in the offseason. Remember Broderick Perkins and his pinch-hitting skills? Juan Eichelberger's ability to start and relieve? No?
Or how the Indians' hiring of Mike Ferraro as manager would put them over the top?
Now, keep in mind, the Indians were promoting, not reporting. It's unlikely anyone really believed the Indians would win the division in 1983, or even come close.
But for all the excitement the video tried to create, the season itself was a dud. The Tribe finished with 92 losses. Ferraro didn't even make it past 100 games before losing his job.
And if the Indians thought the program itself would help them draw fans, well, they were mistaken. They drew about 768,000, worst in the American League.
The point is, as Cleveland (or Cincinnati or Detroit) look to make a deal to improve its chances, nothing is certain, be it this year or next.
Anticipation is valuable, but often worthless.
As are the players one receives at the deadline.