The Cleveland Guardians are young, talented and peaking for the postseason
It's time for postseason baseball once again in Cleveland. The young Guardians face off with Tampa in a best-of-three series starting Friday at Progressive Field. But how did a historically young team crash baseball's postseason?
Not only is Cleveland the youngest team in Major League Baseball, with an average age of about 26, but they’re also younger than any of the minor league Triple A clubs. They’re just the eighth team to be the youngest in the league and make the playoffs.
It’s also the first time in the American League that the youngest team won its division. Seventeen Guardians made their major league debut this year, tied for the most in franchise history. The last time Cleveland had this many rookies was in 1914.
Assistant General Manager Matt Forman credited the impact of veteran manager Terry Francona and the contract extension signed by star third basemen José Ramírez for setting the right course for the season.
Director of Player Development Rob Cerfolio likens his role to being the principal of a baseball school. He’s responsible for about 250 players in the U.S. and other countries. Cerfolio and his staff guide the young players in not only baseball, but also life skills, language and education. It’s school and wraparound services.
Many on this young team lost a full year of experience playing games, as the pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor league season. But like all schools, Cerfolio and his staff got to work on virtual lesson plans and homework to continue the development.
Both Forman and Cerfolio said it’s important for young stars like Steven Kwan and Oscar Gonzalez to win in the minor leagues, setting a winning culture for their career. Kwan, Gonzalez and many of their current Guardians teammates did just that for the Akron Rubber Ducks, who won the 2021 Double A championship.
Despite the exciting young club, attendance continued to be sparse at Progressive Field. The team says bad weather in Cleveland led to 10 postponements, the most in the majors since 2001. Regarding the name change from Indians to Guardians, team vice president Curtis Danburg said they knew it would be a transition for some fans.
“There haven’t been any surprises from that standpoint,” Danburg said in an e-mail. “Our metrics show continued growth in acceptance as the year has gone on.”
The team ranks sixth in the Major Leagues for TV viewership. The fans who have watched this year were treated to a style of play focused on pitching, defense, contact hitting and baserunning.
And of course, Cleveland’s first division title since 2018.