Feb. 23—NORWALK — Second only to the sun, nobody can brighten up a day during the winter in northern Ohio more than Bob DiBiasio talking baseball and the Cleveland Indians.
Bobby D., the longtime Sr. Vice President of Public Affairs for the Indians, was the guest Monday on a Zoom meeting of the Norwalk Rotary Club. He talked about the struggles last year with the COVID-19 pandemic and how the team is preparing for this year.
But, most of all, he just talked baseball with the first spring training game scheduled for the radio on Sunday. The Indians held their first full-squad workout on Monday in Goodyear, Ariz.
What about fan attendance at Progressive Field this season? Last year, when the season was limited to just 60 games — 30 home and 30 away — the closest the fans could get to the game was watching in on television or listening to the radio.
"We are very hopeful we will have fans in the ballpark," DiBiasio said. "We have no idea of the capacity."
He talked about putting fans in rows, pods or how they will be separated.
"We're working with the Cleveland Clinic and the state health department," he said.
The season opens on the road April 1 at the Detroit Tigers and the home opener is April 5 vs. the Kansas City Royals.
DiBiasio said the season is broken down to three emotions: frustration; elation; and discovery.
"When we don't with the World Series it is a frustrating season," DiBiasio said. "It doesn't mean it isn't a successful season."
DiBasio talked about the three-team race last year between the Tribe, Minnesota and the Chicago White Sox, with Minnesota finishing first at 36-24 — one game better than both the Tribe and the Sox.
All three teams made the playoffs.
"I think we are going to be pretty close to that this year," he said.
He said if you figured that 35-25 record out to 162 games, it would have been the Tribe's fifth straight 90-plus winning season — only the second time that has happened in team history.
The only other time? 1950-55 when the Indians did it six straight years.
"We've had eight straight winning seasons under Tito (team manager Tito Francona). We just haven't played long enough in October," DiBiasio said.
Bobby D. said the Indians are built on pitching and defense, and that is no different this season.
The team will be built around pitcher Shane Bieber, last year's unanimous American League Cy Young winner, and José Ramirez, a close second in the MVP voting, and a defense that won the team Gold Glove award.
"How José goes we go," DiBiasio said.
But there are plenty of question marks.
"There are a lot of open spots in our lineup," he said. "Tito's mantra is 'all you have to do is be one run better than the other team you play.'"
He talked about the money in the game, comparing the big-market teams to the smaller market.
He said revenue sharing helps out, but the most important thing is being smart with your money.
He talked about trading away fan-favorite Francisco Lindor in the offseason, a move that had been long expected and rumored for over a year.
"Baseball is not built on one guy," he said. "We could not find a number respectful to the player and a number respectful to the organization."
He said a break-even point for the team is a $110 million payroll and two million fans in the stands.
"What we have sustained here ... we are all in on the science of baseball ... be the best we can be," DiBiasio said.
"We can't want to get it rolling."