The Guardians gave the fans an incredibly memorable 2022 season. Not only did they prove the national naysayers wrong, but they also ignited the Cleveland fanbase.
The youngest team in baseball defied odds and won 92 games. This group of fun-loving guys are the 2022 American League Central champions.
Let’s take a look at some of the memories from this season:
Out the gate
The Guardians’ Opening Day roster included rookie Steven Kwan. He immediately put on an offensive clinic that was one of the greatest in the history of baseball. Kwan became the first player to reach base 15 times in his first four games. It was a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since 1901. To add more of an exclamation point, through his first 40 swings (116 pitches) he didn’t miss. According to ELIAS no player has done this on debut since 2000. Kwan ended the first month of the season with a .354 batting average and a .459 on-base percentage.
Josh Naylor comes back from injury
Last season, Naylor suffered a closed fracture and dislocation of the right ankle. Ernie Clement and Naylor collided going for a fly ball and he immediately was taken to the hospital. He underwent surgery soon after and missed the remained of the season. With a lot of reflecting and off-season work he returned to the game in 2022. In talking with Naylor it was apparent that he did not want the injury to define him. Naylor spoke of it when questioned but wanted to focus attention on his team and the season at hand. The Guardians’ intense first basemen brings a sense of passion to the clubhouse. He’s said he “endlessly loves his teammates.” His energy is infectious. Naylor was an integral part of the special camaraderie this team had.
Jose Ramirez stays “home”
Ramirez signed his extension as the season began. At the home opener he made it official. There was a collective sigh of relief amongst fans when they’re beloved third baseman signed. Ramirez will more than likely finish his career with Cleveland. This display of loyalty is rare in baseball. His choice to stay with the Guardians could be seen as the starting point of this historic season. His veteran presence gave the youth on the team someone to aspire to play like. When Ramirez is in the box there’s no one more locked in.
Josh Naylor owns the White Sox
On May 9th Cleveland was down four runs in the top of the ninth inning. Naylor bombed a grand slam and tied up the score. Then he went on to make history. As the game went into extra-innings, Naylor blasted a three-run homer to put the Guardians up 12-9 and went on to win the game. No player in major league history had accomplished what Naylor had. The Cleveland first baseman became the first player with two three-run or more home runs in the ninth inning or later.
BAPTIZE THAT PITCH.#ForTheLand pic.twitter.com/OnkBrYiqdF
— Cleveland Guardians (@CleGuardians) May 10, 2022
Guardians at the All-Star game
Cleveland was well represented at the Mid-Summer Classic. Andres Gimenez got the start at second base; Ramirez was at third base and Emmanuel Clase closed the game.
Ramirez participated in the Home Run Derby during the All-Star festivities. He stated his mother played a huge role in his decision to compete in the derby. The Guardians’ third baseman hit 17 home runs. However, he was eliminated in the third round by Juan Soto.
Gimenez flashed the leather during the game. He made an amazing play on a liner up in the middle of the bat of Manny Machado. The second baseman made a dazzling behind-the-back throw to get Machado out at first. It was easily the defensive play of the game. A showcase as to why he is a gold-glove finalist at the end of the season.
During the game, Ramirez did what he does best, getting the barrel on the bat. He provided two key hits, both singles, making him 2-2 on the night. When he was on the national stage, he led the league with 75 RBI. He ended the season third in the league with 126 RBI.
Clase earned the save for the American League by striking the side. He only threw ten pitches giving him an almost perfect inning. The Guardians’ flame-thrower led the league with 42 saves for the season.
Guardians’ biggest rivalry – the rain
Cleveland had 11 games postponed due to rain during the regular season. The rain followed the Guardians into the Postseason. Game 2 of the American League Division series with the Yankees was postponed. The fans clamored that the game should have been played. They felt it gave New York more time to rest their pitchers. Thus, the feeling was the Yankees gained an advantage. Regardless, Cleveland was no stranger to planning games around the rain. Their 12 rainouts led all of baseball.
Headbutts and smoke
During Naylor’s historic night in Chicago, he famously was caught saying “give me all the smoke.” After his second home run that night, he had slammed his helmet in the dugout. In jest, Skipper Terry Francona kept a helmet near him for any future Naylor celebrations. When the Guardians win in dramatic fashion, the first baseman can be extremely animated. On June 29, it was no different. Naylor had a two-run walk-off homer to beat the Twins 7-6. Francona was ready for him as he rounded the bases. Naylor made his way to Tito, who was wearing a helmet, and headbutted him. This was a display of the fun the team has amongst themselves as well as their manager. Francona has said this team makes him “feel young again.”
Guardians honor John Adams
If you know Cleveland baseball, you know John Adams. His story is one of the greatest. Adams brought a drum to a game one in 1973 and continued to do so for more than 3,700 games.
On August 24, he was inducted into the team’s Distinguished Hall of Fame. That day was significant as it was the exact date in 1973 that he first brought his drum to the stadium.
Health issues have kept Adams from attending any games since 2019. Fans have missed the rhythmic drumbeat coming from the left field bleachers. The organization included Adams in the games by showing him on the jumbotron with his drum and rooting on the team.
The induction into the Distinguished Hall of Fame cemented Adams’ legacy into the ballpark. Heritage Park is now the home to a replica bronze drum affixed to his bleacher seat. A plaque was also mounted above his seat in the bleachers. “The Tribe Drummer” as he was lovingly named was honored and humbled by these gestures.
Shane Bieber…enough said
Shane Bieber was coming off a shoulder injury from last season. He made only two starts after the All-Star break last year. In 2022, he bounced back into the Ace role for the team. On September 7th, the right-hander notched the 50th win of his career. He was the 5th fastest pitcher to do so in club history. The Cleveland pitcher also punched his 800th strikeout which made him the sixth club starter to reach that mark by age 27 or younger. What makes Biebers’ feat remarkable is that he hit that mark in the second fewest games in baseball history.
Jose’s Curtain Call
In Game 1 of the Wild Card series against Tampa Bay, Bieber was dominant through 7 2/3 innings. Cleveland was down 1-0 in the sixth inning. Amed Rosario singled off Rays’ Shane McClanahan. Ramirez stepped up with power and hit one out of the park. The sellout crowd erupted at Progressive Field.
Then Tampa Bay’s manager Kevin Cash tried to ruin the fun. He challenged if Rosario missed the bag while rounding second. While the officiating crew waited for the ruling the crowd began singing their chant for Ramirez. “Jose, Jose, Jose” rang out through the ballpark. The fan favorite stepped out of the dugout to wave to the fans. Cheers erupted during his curtain call and when the call on the field stood.
Jose curtain call. #ForTheLand #JRAMFOREVER pic.twitter.com/EW37gkGGOB
— The Dery Brothers Guardians Cast (@DeryBrosPod) October 7, 2022
SpongeBob walks it off
Oscar Gonzalez has a unique walk-up song. He’s chosen the theme from SpongeBob SquarePants. The rookie had this song throughout his minor league career and kept it when he joined the big-league club. Gonzalez stated that “the kids loved it” and he is a kid at heart. When he first stepped up to “Are you ready kids?” it raised some eyebrows and caused a few giggles. Then it took on a life of its own. A Bowling Green student, David Hrusovsky, began wearing a SpongeBob SquarePants costume to games. He became a local celebrity and even prompted a few others to attend games in SpongeBob gear.
However, in Game 2 of the Wild Card game against Tampa Bay, Gonzalez showed he could hang with the big guys. The rookie hit a walk-off home run in the 15th inning to complete the sweep of the Rays. Thus, sending Cleveland to the ALDS.
OSCAR GONZALEZ WALK-OFF HOMER IN THE 15th! #POSTSEASON pic.twitter.com/bVpy55LKXz
— MLB (@MLB) October 8, 2022
Oops he did it again
The ALDS shifted to Cleveland for Game 2. Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, the Guardians were down 5-3. The bases were loaded with two outs and Gonzalez was at the plate. He was down to a two-strike count when he ripped a single into center field. This scored two runs and landed “SpongeBob” in history with that hit. The right fielder tied the All-Time record for most go-ahead/game-winning hits in the playoffs with three.
OSCAR GONZALEZ AND THE GUARDIANS WALK IT OFF AGAINST THE YANKEES! HE’S DONE IT AGAIN!
YOU JUST LOVE TO SEE IT! pic.twitter.com/qZbd3tHTm9
— Tyler Milliken ⚾️ (@tylermilliken_) October 16, 2022
Is it spring yet?
This team was coined the “Guardiac Kids” as they led the majors with 29 wins in their final-at bat. Not bad for a team that had 17 rookies make their debut. They gave us fun and made us proud. This gives fans so much to look forward to next season.
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