ARLINGTON, Texas — As many onlookers focused on the new name of the Cleveland baseball franchise to begin the 2022 season, the higher-ups at the organization were cautious about what was to come with all of the new faces who were soon to make their Major League debuts with the club as the team’s ongoing rebuild was supposedly a couple of years away from fielding a playoff contender. Instead of going through growing pains, however, the Guardians ended up personally living out the adage about youth not knowing any better throughout the spring and summer, and the kids who were supposed to start from the ground-up are the new kings of the American League Central.
It was fitting that a rookie with no big-league experience before this season, outfielder Steven Kwan, would be the headliner in Cleveland’s division clincher, as he drove in five runs — including hitting a grand slam in the eighth inning — in the Guardians’ 10-4 win over the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field in Arlington on Sunday afternoon.
Cleveland has won its first division title since 2018, and its 11th division title since the inception of the current division format in Major League Baseball in 1994. Winning its first division title while known as the Guardians, Cleveland is the first team in AL/NL history to win a division or league title while having at least 16 rookies making their Major League debuts that season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Not only did the Guardians enter Opening Day with the youngest team in baseball, their average age on the roster was younger than every Triple-A team’s Opening Day roster to start 2022. What the team lacked in experience on the field they made up for in belief and talent, and the experienced hand of manager Terry Francona steered the brat pack into truly believing that age was indeed just a number.
“Each team has its own identity and its own unique chemistry, and it takes a while for that to build over time,” Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “You can see over the course of the year that identity continued to build, and then guys embraced it and took off with it.”
As surprising as seeing the Guardians tied for first place in the division going into the first Monday of September, they have really taken off since then. From Sept. 5 onward, Cleveland is a league-best 18-3, a stretch that included back-to-back series in which it won four out of five against the Minnesota Twins at home before sweeping a three-game set from the Chicago White Sox on the road, all but eliminating the Guardians’ closest pursuers in their chase for the division title.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Sunday afternoon’s game, with all photos taken by Dallas-area photographer Ross James. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 26 pictures in total.