Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Love is Loss: A Baseball Fan's Lament

From November 2004:


During a first round game of this year's playoffs between the Angels and the Red Sox, I sat at a bar in Cambridge and tried to explain the facts of baseball life to my friend Max. I told him that being a true baseball fan was sort of like being in a really, really bad relationship, one where you knew that nothing good could ever come of it, that you'd end up dispirited, defeated, deflated, disparaged. Oh, the love is there, all right, but, as the song says, sometimes love just ain't enough. You know what sort of pain you're setting yourself up for, but, regardless of all your attempts to make it work, you will be lost, bitter, hard, and increasingly cynical. You will vow never to let yourself get sucked in again. Then a few months will go by and, before you know it, it's spring training, and all the sleepless nights, the inability to speak your team's name without choking up, the tears, the agony, the knowledge that you gave your heart freely only to have it ripped from your chest and thrown into a fiery pit will somehow seem less dramatic and you'll remember the good times, the big wins, the nights of laughter and toasting, the shared dreams of a happy future, hope for another postseason, the inevitable tug of "this is the year," and the cycle will begin all over again.

Max was a new baseball fan, though, which meant he was skeptical of my analogy. But as this postseason started to hold a tighter and tighter grip around his sanity, his and all of Boston's, really, he began to understand exactly what I meant.

This is not my first year in the clutches of October Fever. I am a seasoned baseball fan, one who's watched her team suffer heart breaking injuries, losses, late-inning slip-up, pitching catastrophes, errors heard 'round the world, batters doing nothing but whiff wood through empty air, moronic managers, scapegoats, and careless umpires. I grew up in the Cleveland area, so I know the full range a franchise can showcase. At one point, the Indians were such an awful team, Hollywood made a film about it that included lines like, "Here in Cleveland? I didn't know they still had a team!" Of course, there was a resurgence of power for about six or seven years in the mid-to-late 90's that rallied the city together to chant in one voice, "Goooo Tribe!" With the construction of Jacobs' Field in 1994, the people of Cleveland came to the House that Dick Built with a necessary fever of baseball enthusiasm. The team was a roster full of spark plug youngsters, like Manny Ramirez, Carlos Baerga, Albert Belle, and Sandy Alomar Jr., and seasoned veterans like Eddie Murry, Dennis Martinez, and Orel Hersheiser. Jacobs' Field was a sold out arena for a record-breaking straight 455 games from 1995-2001, and the team's five consecutive Central Division Championship titles from 1995-1999 and two ALCS Championship titles, one in 1995 and one in 1997, strengthened Cleveland's spirit. The Browns had left the city without its beloved NFL team from 1996 to 1998 and when the Cavaliers left the Coliseum to play in the Gund Arena, Cleveland basketball was considered to be a corporate ticket. But baseball, baseball united the city.

I'd been going to games at Cleveland Stadium with my family ever since I was a little girl, although I didn't start out loving the sport. As my brother Josh recently reminded me, I used to attend Tribe games decked out in a huge straw hat that I wore so I could duck my head and read a book. It wasn't until I was in high school that I began to let baseball into my blood, to cloud up my judgment, and, in general, usurp my soul. When the Indians lost in six games to the Braves in the 1995 World Series, I cursed Chipper Jones' sneaky .400 on base percentage, Tom Glavine's MVP pitching performance. When they lost to the Marlins in the 1997 World Series, I raged when Jose Mesa allowed the game to go into extra innings and lamented the fact that Charlie Nagy was pinned with the eventual loss. And the most depressed I've ever been in my life was following the devastating first round of the postseason in 1999 when my guys were up two games over the Red Sox only to have the boys from Boston take the next three, including one game where the Sox spanked the Tribe 21-7. Oh, the football score. It still shivers my timbers.

After years of watching the team rise and fall and rise again, only to fall again, of spending summers glued to the television or the radio, rarely missing a pitch, of sitting in seats all over the Jake, I am proud to say that I am a Cleveland Indians fan. To the core.

Two years ago, I moved from Cleveland to Boston and have endured the snide comments about my Jim Thome bobblehead doll, the odd looks when I walk down the street with my Chief Wahoo-plastered travel mug, the eye-rolling from friends when I sport my Indians t-shirt. At the Logan security checkpoint one Christmas, I even had an airport personnel point at my Indians winter hat and say, "Really?" I simply shrugged and said, "They're not a good team, but they're my team." True baseball fans know what I mean. Loving your team means putting up with taunts, jeers, pointing, heckling.

But baseball fans the world around know this, also: if you can't be with the team you love, you better hope you get to be with the Red Sox. Because, despite their effect on my mental health in October '99, the Sox are a team to be respected, not only because they are perennially fierce competition, but also because they are stuck in the Eastern Division. The crummy East. Unless you like pin stripes, ain't nothin' to love about your team being in the AL East. I mean, the Indians grew from an underdog position to reign over the likes of the Tigers, the Royals, and the Twins, but, c'mon, beating the Motor City Kitties isn't exactly a David and Goliath situation. The Western and Central Divisions are up-for-grabs every year because payrolls are fairly even which means each organization can afford the same level of talent. They put together teams that may be lacking in some respects, but the goal is to find equilibrium both in the clubhouse and on the field. Outside of the Indians' five-year dominance in the Central, no recent team has been a guaranteed division victor until late in the season. In the West, especially, fans up and down the coast have no idea who will dominate from year to year. And with the MLB's decision to emphasize divisional play, fans gear up for the games between rivals, games that will offer a crucial two-game swing in the standings.

No one knows this better than the Red Sox. Those poor, cursed bastards locked in more head-to-head combat with the Yankees than seems fair. Oh the Red Sox. They have to play catch-up all season and it's a game they simply cannot win. Because the Yankees aren't just any team. They are both God's Chosen Ones and the Evil Empire, the ideal and the bizarro-world version of a baseball team. George Steinbrenner simply has more money than anyone else invested in the sport so he can build the baseball master race, put a potential gold glove at every position, even lure one of the best short stops in the game to come play third base simply by showing him his very own pin striped jersey. No argument: the Yankees didn't need Alex Rodriguez on the team. Derek Jeter is an elite short stop, not to mention one of the prettiest jewels on the Yankee crown, so the acquisition of A-Rod cannot be taken seriously. Why sign A-Rod? Eh, why not? That's the attitude of the uber-team.

But it's not Alex Rodriguez' fault. It's not any of the Yankees' fault that they are The Team To Beat every year. No one can argue with the seven straight divisional titles, not to mention the thirty-nine ALCS victories and the twenty-six World Series rings since the inception of the American League in 1901. Despite numerous Bostonians roaming around wearing "Yankees Suck" t-shirts, the Yankees do not suck. Or, rather, the mechanics of their team do not suck. They have a lineup of seasoned hitters, a solid rotation, and one of the best closers in the history of the game. No, the Yankees do not suck. The fact that they have such a high salary capacity sucks. The fact that everything about them spells unfair advantages to the rest of baseball sucks. But that's not the Yankees' fault. They aren't breaking any rules. They're making the system work for them. Hey, if George Steinbrenner owned your team, wouldn't you think the never-ending string of Cy Young-caliber pitchers and Babe Ruth-like sluggers were just what your team, your city deserved? Of course you would.

As it stands now, you're either a Yankee fan or you're not. If you're not, you are, like Max and me and millions of others, guaranteed to suffer for your sport. And if you are a Yankee fan, you're not a baseball fan. If we go back to my original relationship analogy, I would contend that if your love has never been challenged, you're not really in love. It's not until you fear the worst that you can see the best. And while that mean seem cliché, it's simply fact. Prior to this year's history-making pennant-race meltdown, the worst that's happened to Yankeefan over the last ten years is the three times they failed to advance in the post season all the way to the ALCS. Boo hoo.

What about the Red Sox? The last time they won the East was in 1990. Since then, they've had to battle their way into the postseason five times as the Wild Card and have scratched their way to the ALCS three times. What fans have it harder than the Red Sox? And over the last few years that I've lived in Boston, nothing, not two Pats' Super Bowl victories, not Bruins playoff runs, not free Shakespeare on the Common, nor the Democratic National Convention has brought this city to life like a Red Sox postseason. It's all anyone talks about in October. And, up until this year, it's always ended the same -- the run has come down to a face off with the dreaded Yankees with the same result: the Sox come up short while the Yankees steam roll through with the players' faces frozen in a bored grimace. Then what do the Sox fans do? They brace themselves for the wicked New England winter and vow that next year will be different.

Meanwhile, Yankeefan, who has expected this outcome from the beginning of the season, simply turns its attention to the World Series. The rest of the baseball world hibernates. Because who cares who wins the World Series? The fact that the Yankees are there, yet again, is a turn off. I would go as far as to say that ALCS games between Boston and New York are more anticipated, more watched than the World Series because what's exciting about the same old team representing the American League? Nothing. Last year, I remember the networks pulling for a Red Sox/Cubs match-up in the World Series and when neither underdog team advanced past their league series, it was a severe disappointment to everyone outside of the Yankees and Marlins organizations. Who even won? I'm sure I didn't watch a single game.

Of course, this year, things ended quite differently. Not only did the Red Sox de-throne the almighty Yankees, they did it with a dramatic flair. With the Sox down three games to none, they did the unthinkable: the won four in a row to become the first baseball team in the history of the game ever to do so and won the American League pennant in the process. Oh, and they also capped off this comeback during a road trip to the Bronx.

During Game 7, I was in a bar in Boston's South End listening to a few guys heckle Johnny Damon. Damon was having one of the worst offensive series in his career, hitting less than .100, true, but his defense had been spot-on and he was a player who deserved fan loyalty and support. His numbers during the regular season were more than solid. Boasting a .304 batting average and a .380 on base percentage, not to mention his 20 home runs and 94 RBIs, Damon's struggles in the ALCS were simply out of character. But these guys, well, they were groaning about Damon being up to bat with the bases loaded. "Just who we want in there!" one of them jeered. Finally, I swiveled around to face them and said, "Ya'll need to have some love in your heart for Johnny. He's having a rough time right now, but he's a great player and should lay off." The words were barely out of my mouth before Damon hit the first pitch he saw over the right field wall at Yankee Stadium. Gettysburg Address. Four score.

The Sox were already on top, thanks to a David Ortiz home run in the first inning, but Damon's grand slam in the second and two-run homer in the fourth were more than good enough to get immediate apologies from the guys at the bar and prove to everyone that clutch plays can come from anywhere, slumps can be snapped, good players will rise to the occasion.

Clearly, the 2004 Red Sox clubhouse is full of clutch players. Curt Schilling's performance in Game 6 was beyond inspiring. Tim Wakefield's "What's good for the team..." mentality should be highlighted in all youth sports. And as my brother said last Monday after Big Papi kept his team alive for the second game in a row, "So is David Ortiz just going to be the new mayor of Boston or what?" Well, the new ALCS MVP, for sure!

There was a moment during Game 4 at Fenway that defined the entire series for me, a moment where I decided it didn't matter what happened because, regardless of the final score, I knew the Sox and their fans were the scrappiest sons of bitches who'd ever enjoyed the game. In the third inning, Alex Rodriguez hit a two-run home run off Derek Lowe that sailed over the Green Monster and out onto Landsdowne Street. Before he'd even run all the way around the bases, a fan outside Fenway flung the ball back over the wall with enough force to land it right by Johnny Damon in center field. Damon took one look at that ball and chucked it back out onto the street. And just as quickly, a fan returned the favor. Finally, an umpire went over and pocketed the ball. Because that, ladies and gents, could've gone on all night, and it probably would have without interference from the officials. Nothing says defiance like the Red Sox. The team, the fans, they didn't care the Yankees were close to sealing the deal with another ALCS victory. They didn't care about stats or scoreboard. They cared about getting rid of that home run ball. Don't leave it on my front porch. Don't leave it outside my door. We won't have it. Not any of it. We won't take that crap, not here in Boston.

That's the attitude that won the Red Sox their first American League pennant in eighteen years and earned them a spot in sports history. That's the attitude that should make baseball fans all over the world redefine what it means to believe.

***

Recently, I pulled out an old tape of a game from August 2001 where the Indians overcame a 12-0 deficit against the Mariners to win in 11 innings. 2001 was the year where the Mariners temporarily stole the Yankees' thunder as The Greatest Team in Baseball because of their amazing 116-45 record, the power of their small-ball game strategy, and a bullpen that seemed impenetrable. And while the Mariners were on their way up, the Indians were on a fast descent. Even though they had some powerful bats in the lineup and the best double-play combination in the game with gold glovers Roberto Alomar at second base and Omar Vizquel at short stop, the pitching staff was full of holes. Maybe that's because then-manager Charlie Manuel was most successful in his major league career as the Indians' hitting coach, not as a guy who understood how to use pitcher most effectively or maybe it was because the staff consisted of tiring pitchers like Chuck Finley, Charlie Nagy, and Dave Burba and relative greenies like C.C. Sabathia and Bartolo Colon, but it was fair to say that the Tribe's precarious season could be visually represented by the jerky motions of reliever John Rocker.

But that day in August 2001 lives in my memory as the game to which all other games should be compared. By the third inning, the Mariners were pile driving the Tribe 12-0 -- and they were doing it at the Jake. By the time the remaining fans stood to sing, "Take me out to the ball game," the score was 14-2. But then something happened. Little by little the Indians chipped away at the Mariners' shatterproof lead until Omar Vizquel hit a two-out, 3-2 count triple off Kazuhiro Sasaki down the right field baseline and into the corner. The loaded bases cleared and the game was tied.

Whodathunkit?

That goes to show that no game is over until the last out because the Indians, the same team the ESPN commentators had chuckled over during the entire broadcast, the same franchise that inspired the film Major League, had scored five runs in the 9th inning. Oh, and they scored all five of those runs with two out.

When I re-watched that game, I decided it is these sorts of inspirational stories that make loving the game so worthwhile. The Red Sox' unbelievable come-from-behind victory in four straight games against the Evil Empire is even more of a reason to remain committed to the sport. These glorious moments are what make our hearts surge, our bodies shake, our mouths go dry. We cheer because we love. We boo because we love. We bear witness because we love. And even if our love comes up short "this" year, there will be "next" year. Miracles really can happen. Heroes can emerge. The impenetrable can be penetrated. And fans across the country have clung with equal abandon to their team's success and failures.

Now. Yankeefan. You've just been handed the worse loss in baseball history, the curse has been reversed, and it happened in your house. Right now, you're hurt. You feel betrayed. You are stunned. These are all new feelings for you, I know, but don't worry. Daddy Steinbrenner will go out and buy baby a shiny new pitching staff in the off-season, maybe a few new pretty faces for the outfield. Whatever baby wants. Daddy can buy back your love.

Has the Evil Empire been destroyed? I'd like to say yes, but I have to say no. Next year the American League East will still be the same bitch of a division it always has been. But maybe the Yankees won't step onto the playing field with the same smugness, the same lip-glossed pout, the same bored predetermination that they are The Team to Beat.

But, then again, they are the Yankees. It'll take more than this year's humiliation to destroy that team. And in the meantime, Yankeefan will go through the post-season withdrawal so well known by the rest of us and come back next year as obnoxious as ever. So, Yankeefan, let me say this: you don't know what you're cheering for. You don't know what it means to win. You've picked an easy team to lust after, a sure thing. Do yourself a favor and become a Twins fan for a season or a Mets fan, for the love of God. And until you do that, until you expose your heart to the real thing, don't you dare try to say you love baseball. Because you don't. You don't know what love is if you're not grown-up enough to make yourself vulnerable. But my guess, Yankeefan, is you're not mature enough to know how right I am. The rest of the baseball fans around you know I'm right, though. And we feel sorry for you, we lament your flashy sets of World Series rings, your team's God-blessed success. Red Sox fans, Indians fans know what you don't: you learn more often through failures, through heartbreak, through hard times, which, I guess, gives the average Yankeefan an emotional baseball IQ of about a two-year-old. None of your wins, none of your rings will ever mean as much to you as this series has meant to the Red Sox. Cradle your ignorance, if you must, but you're missing the entire point of love.




Monday, October 30, 2017

Home Run Derby Does Not a Classic Ballgame Make

I think I'm over this World Series.

Last night's game did it for me -- end of caring.  What a mess.

ICYMI:  the Astros finally beat the Dodgers after five hours and seventeen minutes of raucous baseball.  Seeing as how this exact same pitching matchup from Game 1 -- Dallas Kuechel and Clayton Kershaw -- was a tight two and a half hour game, this disaster was anything but the clean nine innings of baseball we saw that night.  It was slopping fielding and cringe-worthy pitching that lead to a slew of walks and a bonanza of home run balls.  Across the internet, everyone said, "Ohhhh, exciting!"  For awhile, I was into it, too.  Particularly when Clayton Kershaw, aka "The Greatest Pitcher Ever" (said someone?), gave up four runs in one inning -- the 4th, to be exact -- to tie the game.  That's unheard of.  So I sat up and paid attention.  But Kershaw was yanked from the game soon after and Kuechel was yanked even sooner, so then it became the revolving door of relief pitchers (relief, ha) from both teams.

Combined, these two pitching staffs used fourteen different pitchers over the ten innings of play.  Those pitchers gave up twenty-eight hits, including seven home runs, and walked eleven.  Each team also picked up a fielding error.  The Dodgers had twenty-four players that were left on base (meaning they reached base but did not come around to score).  There were a combined eighteen strike outs between the two teams, but who'd even notice that stat when both teams overcame 3-run deficits -- the Astros did it twice -- to keep up the banter of who was going to run away with this shit show of a game.  

At some point -- near the 7th, which is when I finally gave up and went to bed, disgusted by how ludicrous the game was becoming -- I started muttering to myself, If only the Indians had made it this far -- our pitchers would have shut this circus down.  Home Run Derby is fun and flashy and an easy hook to get people who aren't that knowledgable about the sport interested in watching the game.  And I had to keep reminding myself that T-Mobile had pledged to donate $20,000 for every home run hit during the World Series to hurricane relief (tweet with the hashtag #HR4HR and they donate an extra $2 per mention) and so at the very least all this bravado would result in a cash donation to a very worthy cause.  But, to me, games at the World Series level should be, well, better than homer-boners.  Extremely long, high scoring games tell me the pitching is subpar.  I have a hard time calling that "the best game ever."  

But I am a purist -- give me a low scoring, 1-0 game any day of the week.  Give me stringing together a few hits to make something happen.  Give me team work and strategy and bravery.  Pitchers working into jams to walk a bunch of guys who then come around to score on a brawny home run cranked off a flat pitch is....less thrilling to watch.  For me.  I know many of you are loving the action -- but I'm not an action-movie kind of girl.  I like that steady consistency of a well-played game.  The fact that there have been multiple insane late-inning "dramatics" from this World Series tells me the bullpens stink -- the closers can't close -- they've got no reliable guys to hand the ball to when the starter taps out.  And this is the best Major League Baseball has to offer this postseason?

Yes, I realize that the Indians starting pitching was shaky in the ALDS and our offense was silent and our defense was awful, specifically in the final two games.  But that wasn't characteristic of the team.  And we were eliminated from the action because of our underwhelming postseason play, fair and square.  I don't really know enough about the Astros or the Dodgers to know if what we're witnessing is characteristic or not -- but I can say that watching these two teams in action is starting to sour for me.  Get it together, would ya?  Even one of ya?

I realize this stance puts me in the minority.  That's OK.  I'm used to that.  I'm a Cleveland Indians fan, after all.

I would love for more people to discover the magic, beauty, intelligence, strength, and camaraderie of this sport I have adored most of my life.  And if explosive offense-laden games like the ones from this World Series interests some new fans, than I am ultimately for it.  I may even start one of those waves.

But give me a pitcher was a low ERA any day, baby.  That's where the heart of good play truly lies.  You'll all come around to see it my way someday.  Probably.




Originally posted in the Inspired in 2017 blog on October 30, 2017.




Thursday, October 26, 2017

They Don't Call It the 'Fall Classic' for Nothin'!

When the Indians were eliminated in the American League Divisional Series, I thought I was all done watching Major League Baseball in 2017.  I was heartbroken, depressed, lost -- I had cleared my entire October for the postseason, telling anyone who wanted to hang out that it was "baseball dependent."  When my team was out of it early, I was crushed -- what was I going to do with my October 2017 now?

On the day of Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, Houston Astros vs New York Yankees, I wore Cleveland Indians gear and spent that evening watching a documentary called Drag Becomes Him about one of my favorite RuPaul's Drag Race winners, Jinkx Moonsoon.  The postseason was dead to me -- I was reconnecting with other things that bring me joy.

But as much as I didn't want to care what was happening in the ALCS (and the NLCS, a rematch from the year before of Dodgers vs Cubs), around Game 3, I found myself checking the scores, feeling especially gleeful when the Yankees were coming up losers.  I also felt vindicated that the Yankees hung tough against that nasty Astros team, proving that the Indians had lost to a worthy adversary in the first round of the playoffs.  By the time the Dodgers had clinched the NL title, the Astros and the Yankees were still in the throes of battle, eventually leading to a do-or-die Game 7.  I remember thinking, the Yankees have got to be exhausted.  They'd played the maximum number of games in each round of the playoffs so far (granted one of those rounds was a one game series), while the Astros had won the West, therefore skipping Round 1, and had beat the Red Sox in four games instead of going the full five.  Maybe that mattered and maybe it didn't -- in these situations, it comes down to the pitching and how fierce the starting rotation is and how banged up the bullpen is.  I wanted to tune in for that Game 7, my heart beating for the Astros, but was once again denied by my "MLB TV Postseason Package" (that allowed viewers to watch.....none of the American League games?  So totally confusing and misleading).  So, fine.  I just kept and eye on the score.  And when the Astros emerged triumphant, I was suddenly ready for more postseason baseball.

Tuesday was Game 1 of the World Series, played in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium in front of an extremely loud home crowd.  As Indians radio announcer Tom Hamilton likes to say in these situations, "I don't think anyone's even taken a seat for one minute of this game."  I tuned in right before the first pitch, sure I'd watch maybe four or five innings and go to bed.  I was exhausted, after all, and what did I care about who won?  My thought was I'd just take in a bit of the action and check the score in the morning.

Well.

Game 1 was insane.  It moved at racehorse speed (the whole thing was over and done in like two and a half hours) and proved to be an epic pitchers' duel between Clayton Kershaw vs Dallas Keuchel, backed up by some crazy defense.  The Astros turned three inning ending double plays in the first five innings!  Both teams depended on the long ball in this one, the difference in the game being that Kershaw gave up just one while Keuchel gave up two, leaving the Dodgers Game 1 winners with a final score of 3-1.  It was true fun to watch and I could barely believe it was over so quickly.  Without knowing a ton about either team, Game 1 showed me that both the Astros and the Dodgers came to throw down and they were matching each other nearly blow for blow -- this was going to be a great series.

Then along came Game 2.  Holy.  Schmoly.  I missed the first few innings, so by the time I tuned it, the Astros were leading the way with a score of 1-0.  They had scored the old fashioned way -- small ball, it's sometimes called -- you know, get runners on base and move them towards home plate with base hits and such.  I dunno, as great as home runs are, there is something extra beautiful about keeping the ball in the park and using wit and gumption to rack up runs.  But, well, at the end of the day it doesn't really matter how those runs were scored, just as long as your team ends with at least one more than the other team.  

This was a lesson the Astros and the Dodgers were savage about learning last night.

At first, it seemed like it was going to be a near-carbon copy of the night before when the Dodgers hit a homer to tie the score at 1-1 and then hit another homer to boost their lead to 3-1.  Again, it was the sixth inning and the score was identical to the night before.  Spooky.

But the Astros would not agree to go quietly into the night, allowing the Dodgers to maintain their "undefeated at home during the postseason" record, licking their wounds like Dodger outfielder Yasiel Puig licks his bat after fouling one off (you heard me).  So here's what happened:  utter chaos.

The 'Stros hit solo homers in the 8th and 9th inning to send the game into extras.  In the top of the 10th, the away team tacked on two runs with back to back homers before a single out was recorded.  It looked like a surefire Astros come from behind win.  But, no.  We head to the bottom of the 10th when the Dodgers respond with two runs of their own, one by way of the long ball and one by a good ol' single bringin' a guy across home.  On to the 11th.  Once again, the Astros go hard and clock another homer, this one good for two runs, but, still -- there's more.  Onto the bottom of the 11th, the Dodgers tack on yet another home run, bringing the score to 7-6 and the frantic still standing, still screaming fans to a froth.  With two outs recorded and nobody on base, up steps the before-mentioned bat-licker (and general character -- he's got a blue mohawk, a plethora of tattoos, and one mean ass stank face -- not to mention incredible passion -- he missed a probably impossible to catch ball and threw his glove down in such disgust that it made me say out loud, "Buddy, it's OK -- no one could have caught that -- you're doing just fine...") Yasiel Puig.  Puig was facing the fifth Astros pitcher of the night, Chris Devenski.  This guy Puig?  He was not ready to go home unless it was on the back of a Dodgers win.

It was an epic nine pitch at-bat:  two called strikes and then a foul off before three straight balls, bringing the count to the dreaded 3-2. Puig fouled off two more pitches before ending the game when he struck out swinging.  As I watched that final strike be called, I thought to myself, games like this one are good for the sport.  Both Game 1 and Game 2 fit this bill, but Game 2 was a great example of the game isn't over until the last out is called.  And while that sounds like dumb common sense, it's really not.  It can be so easy to give up -- or to think the game is locked up -- when the next pitch can prove otherwise in a hurry.  You'd think scoring two runs in an extra inning situation would be a sure thing -- it's hard to score runs and when it's late in the game like that, tacking on two should do it.  But, nope.  Asked and answered.  If you can score two, so can we.  All the way through until that crazy final at-bat.

Astros, I think I'm ready to come out in support of you this World Series.  Maybe it's because you're American League brethren or maybe it's because you were the force that eliminated the Evil Empire this postseason...  Maybe it's because Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are so fun to watch in a similar vein to Frankie Lindor and Jose Ramirez -- two sets of double play-turning middle infielders with wicked batting skills to boot.  Maybe it's because every time I see this guy, I recoil and say out loud, "WHY IS THERE A MUPPET ON THE DODGERS?"


I don't care what this makes me sound like -- I want to give Justin Turner a haircut so bad.  This look is...overstimulating.  Shudder.

But anyway...

Clearly, both of these teams are fierce competition and I, for one, hope this World Series goes another full seven games, just like last year.  It'll certainly be fun to watch.  And if it can't be my beloved Cleveland Indians in this fall classic, at least it's two teams that are well matched and capable of anything.  I'm kinda sad they've got tonight off -- but I'm sure they're all happy to have a little bit of time to recover from that whopping four and a half hour long game.  Friday they'll be back in action in Houston where the Astros can also boast an undefeated postseason at home.  Will that continue or will the Dodgers take their revenge?  Man, I don't know and I don't really care, but I also can't wait to find out!

Baseball, my love, it's great to be back hangin' out with you for a few more games this 2017 season.  I still believe my favorite part of this World Series is every time they show the Steal a Base/Steal a Taco commercial featuring Frankie Lindor from the 2016 World Series, but watching the Astros and the Dodgers play some great baseball is also pretty cool.



Originally posted in the Inspired in 2017 blog on October 26, 2017.

Monday, October 23, 2017

It's Nice Not to Care

I've been keeping half an eye on the American League Championship Series between the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees and while I "officially" didn't give a damn about the outcome, as the series heated up, eventually going to Game 7 in this best of seven, I got as far as attempting to watch it (once again bitterly disappointed in the waste of money that is the MLB TV Postseason Package that allows you to watch.....none of the games?  Very misleading...) but since that was deemed impossible, I opted to check up on the score every once in awhile.  Not gonna lie -- my heart surged a little when I saw the 'Stros up 1-0 and then 4-0, the eventual final score.  Down with the Yankees.  This brought me inexplicable joy.  

So now we've got a World Series featuring the Astros and the L.A. Dodgers.  The Astros have never won this coveted championship title, having been a National League team from 1965-2013 before switching to the AL.  The Dodgers have won the World Series six times as a franchise, the last time being in 1988.  So for both teams, this is a big deal.

In some ways, that makes this series not so different from last year's match up between the Indians and the Cubs, the two clubs with the longest streak of not winning the World Series in baseball history (the Cubs since 1908 and the Indians since 1948).  It made the series feel meaningful for the entire country -- and maybe that's exactly how this year's big dance will be enjoyed as well!

I, for one, am curious about watching a game or two (or more), though I know almost nothing about either team.  Let's see what can be learned about these ball clubs, shall we?  It's a nice thought -- just enjoying what will undoubtedly be some outstanding baseball games between two incredible teams who finished the season with the best record in the National League for one and second best record in the American League for the other.

If it can't be the Indians, at least it's not the Yankees.

Lookin' forward to tuning in on Tuesday night!


Originally posted in the Inspired in 2017 blog on October 22, 2017.

Friday, October 20, 2017

One Cleveland Baseball Fan

Five days in and I'm already branding.  Eeek!  I made a logo:


I've got one in navy, too:



Whaddya think?  Let me know on my new Facebook fan page One Cleveland Baseball Fan or holla at me through Twitter @1CLEbaseballfan.  I'm ready to talk Tribe today and every day.  Our team may be done for the season, but that doesn't mean we don't have topics to discuss.  On my mind today:  Michael Brantley.  Should his option get picked up for next season or not?  Let's get into it...



Monday, October 16, 2017

You Can Take the Girl Outta Cleveland

Hello, Internet!

My name is Sarah.  I'm a thirty-eight-year-old woman who's lived in Somerville, MA for the past fifteen years.  I moved here in 2002 to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing at Emerson College, a degree I completed in 2005.  But, hey, I liked it here, so I stayed.  In so many ways, I am now a Masshole, through and through, except for in one very key way:  I still root, root, root for my home team, the Cleveland Indians.  This is a blog dedicated to my fandom of this team I love very much. I mean, look at me:


What earnestness.  

I'm loyal, what can I say?

I started following the Indians when I was a kid, going to games at the old Municipal Stadium -- aka "The Mistake by the Lake."  I used to wear a big floppy straw hat and read Baby-sitters Club books on those hot, summer afternoons at the ballpark.  But by the time I was in high school, my interest in the game had caused me to look up every once in awhile during the games and before I knew it, I'd fallen in love for the first time.

Baseball is a cruel love to have.  Ask any small market team fan -- heck, any baseball fan -- and we'll all tell you the same story.  But when I was falling in love with the Cleveland Indians, it was during the 90's when first Jacobs' Field was built in 1994 and my guys went on a five year tear, winning the Central 1995-1999 and going to the World Series in both 1995 and 1997.  I have two brothers, one older and one younger, and baseball was the one thing we all could agree to watch on television.  My younger brother taught me how to throw all the different kinds of pitches and we used to play games where we'd mimic batting stances and we had to guess who the other one was.  We "talked Tribe" year around in our house and when I went off to college, it so happened that my roommate was also a rabid fan, which only further cemented the importance of Cleveland baseball in my life.  When I moved to Boston after finishing my undergraduate degree in 2002, I brought my love of the sport to this great baseball town and cheerfully endured the rolled eyes and scrupulous looks I got from friends and strangers alike as I roamed my new home representing my roots.

Fifteen years later, my love remains stronger than ever for my beloved Cleveland Indians.

This blog is dedicated to my passion for the game of baseball and to this team that has proven to be so fundamental in my experience as a person.  My guys just closed up shop far too soon on the 2017 Postseason, so I'll get this off-season started by sharing some stuff I've written over the years about the Tribe.  You can subscribe if you want to -- that way you'll never have to miss a thing, be it about current events or memorable moments from the past.  

You can certainly take the girl outta Cleveland, but you can't erase the deep love that grew out of that place.  

Start the countdown to Spring Training...  It can't come soon enough for this fan.