Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Even without Belle, Cleveland Figures to Ring Up Wins

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Even without Belle, Cleveland Figures to Ring Up Wins

Article excerpt

The Cleveland Indians have gone from Cinderella to Cruella to "it was nice knowin' ya" all in the span of a few short baseball seasons.

And even though Albert Belle has taken his big bat elsewhere, their thrill ride figures to continue.

The Indians won 265 games the past three seasons, more than any other big-league club. Yet they've finished second once, were upset in the first round of the playoffs and lost in the World Series. "Do we expect to blow everybody out and win easily? No," veteran i nfielder Tony Fernandez said. "But I think everybody expects to be there in October. We want to be there, and that means everything. The attitude is there. The hunger is there." Said catcher Sandy Alomar: "We have some things to accomplish." They'll have to do it without Belle, who hit 48 homers and drove in 148 runs last season. The left fielder signed as a free agent with the Chicago White Sox, the Indians' chief competition in the American League Central Division. Belle batted .303 with 206 homers and 616 RBIs the past five years. He helped fill new Jacobs Field by carrying Cleveland into postseason play for the first time since 1954. Manager Mike Hargrove has heard the critics speculate that Belle's loss has ended the Indians' run. "It really doesn't bother me," he said. "I don't think we've backed up a bit," GM John Hart said. Belle was a valued teammate but often a distraction in the clubhouse. He garnered as much attention for off-field escapades as for his prodigious home runs. "Albert Belle is the best No. 4 hitter in baseball today," Hargrove said. "But having him in our lineup, is that the most important thing for us to win? No. We feel like we can win with the club we've got." With the advent of interleague play this season, Cardinals fans will get a firsthand look at the Indians on June 13-15 at Busch Stadium. In some respects, they will be a different bunch of Indians from those who terrorized the AL the past few years. "We don't have the mashers in our lineup one through nine the way we did in '94 and '95," Hargrove said. "But in a lot of respects, we have a b etter ballclub. We certainly have a different personality. …

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