Who are the guardians in baseball ? First, a history lesson. Back in baseball’s early days, nobody really knew what was in a name. Baseball nicknames in those days were often ephemeral and hastily assembled.
Six members of the Brooklyn team got married in 1888, and so they became known as the Bridegrooms, or Grooms. Nobody cared to consider what would happen if all six players got divorced in 1889 (the Brooklyn Bachelors?). Then they became the Superbas because of … a popular circus act known as the Hanlons’ Superba? Sure, why not? Then they became the Trolley Dodgers, because of the (ultimately temporary) dangers posed to pedestrians by trolleys — a danger that didn’t last in Brooklyn and didn’t follow the team to L.A., even though the Dodgers name itself did.
Your players wear red socks? Cool, you’re the Cincinnati Red Stockings. But wait, that team folded and a few of the players went to Boston? OK, now they’re the Red Stockings. But wait, now there’s a new team in Cincinnati? OK, they are back to being the Red Stockings and you Boston boys have to be the Red Caps. But wait, now the Red Stockings are shortening their name to the Reds? OK, Boston, you can be the Red Stockings, but we’re gonna call you the Red Sox. Everybody happy?
The city’s National League predecessor had been known as the Blues, the Forest Citys, the Orphans, the Infants and the Spiders (because of their black-and-gray uniforms and several long-limbed players). The AL outfit originated as a Western League team known as the Grand Rapids Rustlers, then the Cleveland Lakeshores. In 1901, it became the Bluebirds. The next year it was the Bronchos (this was long before John Elway forever soured that name in Cleveland).
The following year, a newspaper naming contest was such a debacle that they decided to just name the team after its best player, Nap Lajoie, which would seem the most short-sighted choice of all … except that it stuck more than a decade. But the team was also informally known in the newspapers at various points in those early years as the Exiles, the Castoffs, the Misfits, the Spiders (again) and the Molly McGuires.
So then, in 1915, they needed a new name, because Lajoie had been sold to the Philadelphia Athletics (a pretty boring name that has had tremendous staying power from city to city). Representatives from Cleveland’s four daily newspapers (CLEVELAND HAD FOUR NEWSPAPERS!) banded together to come up with a new name.
The Boston “Miracle” Braves had just won the World Series, and so, in keeping with that in-the-moment theme, the Indians were born (whether Louis Sockalexis, who was very briefly a standout player for the Spiders in the NL, truly inspired that selection 15 years after his 94-game career in Cleveland had ended is, at the very best, debatable).
Fans are complaining about the new name of Cleveland’s baseball team. Here’s why it’s actually brilliant
After years of complaints and controversy over its racist caricature mascot, Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team on Friday announced that its new name next season will be the Guardians.
It was a polarizing choice. Initial fan reactions were mixed, with some pining for a throwback name from the team’s earliest days, and others blowing the “cancel culture” dog whistle. Despite the knee-jerk reactions, the name actually has a deep connection with the city and its history.
The name is an homage to the Guardians of Traffic, four massive 1930s-era stone sculptures that adorn the pylons marking a major bridge over the Cuyahoga River, right next to the team’s downtown stadium. Each is double-sided and features square-jawed neoclassical figures holding historical modes of transportation, including a covered wagon, a stagecoach, and a 1930s automobile. With their chiseled muscles and winged crowns, the sculptures exude the strength of what was once one of the industrial powerhouses of the United States, with a dash of art deco elegance for a modern city on the rise. When the bridge opened in 1932, these design elements became emblems of the city.
Fortunes eventually changed for Cleveland, with its industrial might fading and fires repeatedly breaking out on the river beneath the Guardians’ watch. In its video announcing the name change, the baseball team (via a voice-over by actor Tom Hanks) evokes the Guardians as symbols of an underdog city supported not by the opinions of outsiders or the toothy grin of an offensive cartoon mascot, but by residents themselves. A new logo even references the winged crowns of the team’s new namesakes. “We wanted a name that strongly represents the pride, resiliency, and loyalty of Clevelanders,” team owner Paul Dolan said in the official announcement.
In the mid-1970s, when preservationists were calling for the bridge to be included in the National Register, plans were being made to squeeze more lanes of automobile traffic into the 83-foot-wide bridge. Planned and designed beginning in the late 1920s by engineer Wilbur J. Watson with architect Frank R. Walker, the bridge was originally intended to be two levels, with four vehicle lanes and two streetcar tracks below. The bottom level was never built, forcing all of the bridge’s traffic load onto one level.
What is Going On With The Cleveland Guardians?
Imagine your waking up in Cleveland in December of 2022. Your Guardians are the youngest team in baseball and American League Central Division champs. Walked off the 86-win Tampa Bay Rays in 15 innings in early October, advancing to the divisional round of the playoffs to face the Yankees.
Although the 2022 season ended a few days later, there’s plenty to be excited about. They kept the team intact over the offseason and added the switch-hitting power bat of Josh Bell into their lineup. Sounds like the Guardians are going to be great for a long time.
Flash forward to the present day where they currently sit 20-26 and hitting .228 as a team, the sixth worst in baseball. Through an unfamiliar cold stretch with this young group, the Guardians have produced a league-worst .642 OPS.
Last year collectively hitting .254 as a team (7th in MLB) and sixth in hits, gave fans reason to believe it was only going to progress, especially after adding Josh Bell and losing Austin Hedges in the offseason.
This hasn’t been the case for Cleveland, with no one hitting above .300 and just Jose Ramirez and Steven Kwan hitting over .250. Newly acquired Josh Bell displayed his rare switch-hitting success in Washington and San Diego last year as the only switch hitter with 10+ bombs who to hit over .260 from both sides.
However, the first two months for Bell haven’t gone as hoped, hitting .227/.339/.353 with a 93 wRC+ and just 3 home runs. The Guardians brought in Bell to add some power to their lineup, which was an area of weakness their offense had last season. Those issues have not been fixed at all this season, as their power production remains elusive.
Oscar Gonzalez was nothing but impressive last season and has shown no signs of it with a .190/.213/.288 slash line, resulting in getting sent down to Columbus to figure things out. Add Andres Gimenez to this list, who had a breakout year in 2022.
Gimenez hit .297/.371/.466 with a 140 wRC+ and 17 home runs last season. With a 6.1 fWAR, Gimenez was considered one of the most valuable middle infielders in the baseball. Which is why the Guardians signed him to a seven-year, $106.5 million contract.
In his first year under the new deal, Gimenez is hitting .226/.298/.342, with just three home runs and a 78 wRC+. Considering his slash line is nearly mirroring his production in 2021 and last year, Gimenez had a .353 batting average on ball in play, there is great cause for concern here.
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