“It was a great run and I know I’ll appreciate it so much in the long run, that I don’t want to take it for granted now.” That was my prevailing thought after the Cleveland Indians dropped Game 7 of the 2016 World Series to the Chicago Cubs. The Indians had been irrelevant for much of the latter part of the Mark Shapiro years and I had been proclaiming that all I really wanted in life was to string playoff appearances together. The Indians have done just that over the past three seasons following one of the most thrilling runs I’ve ever experienced as a sports fan watching the Indians try and follow up on the momentum created by a Cavaliers championship parade. So now that the Indians have done what I asked, why am I so miserable?
For one thing, I know that not enough time has passed. We’re still riding shotgun on this road trip and the Indians aren’t done yet. Despite the fact that many things will have to change due to contracts and ages of players heading into 2019, the fact is that the Indians still have one of the best pitching staffs in the history of the team. The Indians have disappointed in the past two seasons, but there’s no sign that they won’t be able to continue to win their division and gain access to the post-season tournament as it were. They say you can’t win the lottery unless you buy a ticket and you can’t win the World Series unless you first make it to the playoffs. In that sense, the Indians window still seems pretty open. And yet, I’m kind of miserable.
The cloud of 2016 weighs heavy and seems to be doing so on the team itself as well. The Indians got as close as you ever possibly could and not win it. They were likely too young to realize just how special that chance was. And even if they do realize it, there’s nothing they can do to go back and erase those games that served as an improbable comeback for the Cubs to erase what might as well have been a million years of misfortune and misery. What seemed so possible and even likely for the Indians in 2016 now feels almost as far away as it did when Eric Wedge and Manny Acta were missing the playoffs every year. I know that’s not actually true, but it feels that way, doesn’t it?
The Red Sox are going back to the World Series to try and win their fourth since breaking their “curse” in 2004. They lost in the divisional series in each of the past two years under John Farrell. They’re in the Series now with Alex Cora at the helm and it feels like the natural progression for them. It’s the exact opposite of the Indians who seem to have peaked at losing in Game 7. Again, this is just me being in my feelings more than it has to be reality, but the Indians need to find ways to get better and probably younger if they want to break their own miserable streak.
I should be feeling great about this contention period and the fact that it should very well continue, but nothing feels good about Cleveland baseball right now. I know time will help shine a positive light on this period and we’ll honor it someday. I just hope it isn’t over yet and that it hasn’t also peaked at the beginning.