WASHINGTON -- There once was a big banner lionizing LeBron James on the Sherwin-Williams Global Headquarters Building on Ontario Street in Cleveland. James, you might have heard, is leaving the Great Lakes for the Lakers, and so they unceremoniously yanked that thing down the other day, with the paint company
WASHINGTON -- There once was a big banner lionizing LeBron James on the Sherwin-Williams Global Headquarters Building on Ontario Street in Cleveland. James, you might have heard, is leaving the Great Lakes for the Lakers, and so they unceremoniously yanked that thing down the other day, with the paint company currently evaluating its replacement options.
No city ordinance exists to insist that this space be utilized to aggrandize athletes. But the powers that be, in their scrutiny of the situation, could do worse than to look at the third-base line when the player introductions before the 89th All-Star Game presented by Mastercard take place and take note of the half-dozen ballplayers with the word "Cleveland" spread across their chests.
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"Yeah," Michael Brantley joked, "put us up there, right?"
Individually, starting third baseman Jose Ramirez, reserves Francisco Lindor, Brantley and Yan Gomes and pitchers Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer all tell us something different about where baseball's star talent emanates in the year 2018.
Ramirez, who became just the fifth player in history to have 25 homers and 20 stolen bases before the break, stands for all those kids in the Dominican Republic who come from nothing and use their talent as a ticket to a dynamic life.
Lindor is a central figure of Puerto Rico's return to relevance as a breeding ground for the sport's signature stars (there are six Puerto Ricans on the All-Star rosters), and he's living up to his hyped prospect pedigree by appearing as an All-Star three straight years.
Gomes was already Brazil's first Major Leaguer, and now he's the country's first All-Star. For all we know, he could also have the chance to hit just the second grand slam in All-Star Game history, which would save his father-in-law Atlee Hammaker, from continuing to hold the distinction of giving up the only grand slam in All-Star history, to Fred Lynn in 1983.
Bauer and Kluber are two of the best pitchers in the game right now, ranking second and 10th, respectively, in the Majors in adjusted ERA+. But they're also a study in contrasts. Kluber's a stoic late-bloomer who could do without attention, Bauer's an outspoken engineer who craves it. ("Like me, love me, hate me, whatever," Bauer said here Monday. "Hopefully you just remember me.")
All of those stories are worth exploring, worth celebrating. But it's the collective concoction that has come together here at Nationals Park, where the Indians and defending World Series champion Astros are the only teams with six representatives, that stands out most.
The members of the Tribe flew together to the nation's capital following Sunday's win over the Yankees. It was a crowded charter.
"It seems like every year we keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger," Lindor said. "Hopefully next year we have 10."
Added Gomes: "It just shows how powerful our organization can be, the growth these guys have had."
The Indians have had their bullpen trials in this '18 season, no doubt, and the weak sauce American League Central has very much been a saving grace. But you don't get six All-Stars -- the Indians' largest total since 1999 -- by accident. And while nobody can tell you what's going to happen between now and July 31, let alone between now and Nov. 1, we can tell you, with reasonable certainty, that this squad will get another October opportunity.
That's not something to take lightly in a town where title windows -- be they pushed open by the basketball team having the good fortune of the greatest basketball player in the world happening to emanate out of Akron or the football team successfully executing the final stage of a 19-year rebuilding plan or the baseball team drafting, signing, trading and developing its way to the American League's best record in a six-season sample -- don't come around as often as people would like.
When LeBron left and talk shifted by some -- most notably ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Twitter -- toward the 0-16 Browns' chances of restoring sporting hope in Cleveland, Ramirez responded on Twitter, "Are we invisible?"
Well, the Indians are plenty visible here in the District this week.
"The team is doing well," Ramirez said Monday, "and we're really happy with the support we're getting from the fans. And we're not invisible."
So, hey, a banner? It's far-fetched, if for no other reason than it would have to be pretty wide-stretched to include all the Tribe All-Stars. But Lindor's shoe company, New Balance, already tweeted its idea for a Lindor banner to replace LeBron, and that's better than nothing.
"If I'm on it, I think it's lovely, I think it'll be great," Lindor said. "Am I going to be like, 'I've got to be on that wall'? No, you're not going to hear me say that. But if I'm on that wall, I'll take it."
What Lindor wants -- what all six of these guys want -- is a World Series title, which would end the longest active championship drought in the game. The Indians probably have some work to do on the transaction wire. A healthy Andrew Miller would sure help. And Lindor talked Monday about the need to "back each other up, continue to count on each other and don't add any pressure." But the bottom line is that the math tells us they've got another chance to do what they did in '16 - with the hope of finishing the job this time.
That would be a banner year.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.