This series takes a look at all 10 MLB teams to qualify for the postseason. We'll give them a ranking on a scale of 1-to-10 (1 being the Yankees, 10 being the Mets) to determine who best deserves Mets fans' casual support in the playoffs this year.
The Case: Once the Cubs crushed the Tribe’s hopes in the Series last year, the Indians were left with their newly-saddled distinction of baseball’s longest championship drought. Cleveland hasn’t hoisted a world title banner since 1948, and there have been such excruciating moments along the way.
That right there is one of the most iconic moments in World Series history. Game 7. Bottom of the 11th. Bases loaded. Two out. Edgar Renteria, off the very tip of Charles Nagy's glove.
Did you remember that the Indians had a two-run lead headed into the seventh (Bobby Bonilla, yes the Bobby Bonilla broke the shut out with a solo bomb), and a one-run lead in the ninth? Cleveland was two outs away from glory. And that was an Indians team stacked with talent (Game 7’s starting nine included Manny Ramirez, David Justice, Matt Williams, Jim Thome, and Omar Vizquel).
So they waited 19 years for their next crack, and took a 3-1 lead over the Cubs, who were seemingly destiny's darlings. It looked like redemption would finally be had. Just four months after the Cavaliers broke Cleveland’s championship drought, the City on the Cuyahoga was about to become Titletown, USA
Then suddenly, it all fell apart. And we know what it's like to be undone by Ben Zobrist, too.
What is it like to come up short in of one of the most epic games in postseason history? I can't even imagine. All things considered, we've usually been on the right side of those, "How did that happen" moments. But this? Man, I would have been in a year-long depression. You think the 2015 World Series was a tough beat? Good heavens, I don’t know if I would have eaten for a month.
There are so many reasons to like this team. Francisco Lindor. Jose Ramirez. Corey Kluber. Good God, Corey Kluber. A 2.27 ERA? And a 0.861 WHIP? In 2017? In the American League? Are you kidding me?! That’s 1999 Pedro-esque (For some historical perspective, Pedro’s numbers that year: 2.07 ERA, 0.932 WHIP, 313 strikeouts).
But maybe the biggest reason to root for the Indians is just the opportunity for them to see it through.
As baseball fans, we have the misconception that seasons are linked together. We throw around the term, “unfinished business,” because, as fans, it makes us feel better to liken following a franchise from one season to the next to an unending television melodrama, where everything is connected, leading us to the ultimate payoff. But how often do we truly see it? How often does a team get within one swing of the bat of a world title, then get back the next year and finish the job? The ’15 Royals? The last club before that Royals team to repeat as pennant winners after they lost the Series the year before and go on to win it all was the 1989 A's. Twice in almost 30 years.
Each baseball season is its own living, breathing organism. It’s too long and has too many variables. Emotion from a tough loss in the previous year’s playoffs alone can't carry you forward. And once you get into the postseason, it’s a virtual crapshoot, probably more so than any sport. You almost have to mentally divorce yourself from last year’s disappointment to enjoy the ups and downs of the next season in their proper context. It’s why 2001, and 2007, and 2016 felt like they were filled with so much angst. There’s no rematch clause in Major League Baseball. You have no idea when your next shot will be.
But I remember 15-year-old Brian, who figured the 1999 NLCS appearance and the 2000 pennant were simply stepping stones to a 2001 world championship. Who felt like it all was connected somehow. Lessons of the past that would lead to successes of the future. It's a much more romantic way to look at the game than essentially a roll of the dice and some alignment of fortune.
So for that 15-year-old kid somewhere in an Ohio suburb, who’s staying at home on a Friday night to watch the Indians, game planning out a postseason rotation, and imagining just how high he’ll jump off the couch when the Tribe finally completes the dream, I’ll root for the Indians to finish the job. Because more often than not, sports aren’t magical, until suddenly, they are. And those are the moments you chase your entire life. Even if I haven't had mine yet, it's nice to see a deserving fan base get that moment.
Why to hate them:
Spare me your comments bemoaning “political correctness.”
Chief Wahoo is a holdover of a time when we didn’t know better. We do now. We should have moved past this.
Yet inevitably, every Opening Day in Cleveland, there’s a protest over Wahoo, and people walk past Native Americans screaming that they need to, “Get over it” and that white men wearing red face is, “Honoring them.” Frankly, it’s gross.
There has been progress on this. Wahoo isn’t even the Indians’ primary logo anymore (that distinction, since 2014, goes to the relatively uncreative block ‘C’), and Commissioner Rob Manfred is leading the charge to get the logo dropped for good (Cleveland hosting the 2019 All Star Game may even hinge on it). This is such a likeable club that it really shouldn’t be represented by the caricature. But Cleveland wore Wahoo caps for the majority of their 22 game winning streak, and throughout most of the 2016 postseason. Guys, retire this thing already.
Jay Bruce really grew into New York, something Darren has covered nicely, and deserves the fairy tale he landed right in the middle of. His presence seems to have made an impact, with Cleveland going 30-7 in games Jay has appeared in. This will be Bruce’s fifth crack at the postseason, and in each of his first four attempts (2010, ’12, ’13, and ’16), his clubs have failed to advance. Here’s hoping Jay finally gets to play some LCS baseball.
Rating: 9/10. It feels like a no-brainer. A Cleveland world title would feel cathartic, and feel like the start of a mini-American League dynasty, with no signs of slowing down. I guess the only drawback here would be that an Indians win would inch the Mets into the top-10 of longest World Series championship droughts (and the fourth-longest of a team that already has a title under their belt).