Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Cleveland That I Love

"My home team is NOT winning and it IS a shame.
Like all great art, 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame' reveals deep truths."
~ Dave Holmes

Oh, 2017 Cleveland Indians, how you break my heart.

I'd like to say that I am proud of how my guys played, even in their defeat.  I'd like to say they left it all out on the field and gave it their best shot and we can all hold our heads high.

But mostly, the Cleveland Indians got beat by the New York Yankees.  Plain and simple.  

I am no expert, but here's my simplified analysis of "point here" to explain this catastrophic flatline:

Andrew Miller giving up the solo home run to Greg Bird in Game 3 coupled with Aaron Judge reaching up and robbing Frankie Lindor of a 2-run homer in that very same game.  Had Miller not given up that bomb and/or had Frankie's home run ball not been caught, the 2017 Cleveland Indians would have had the week off to prep for Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday night, tucked in and cozy at Progressive Field.

That was the game we had to win.  That one.  Otherwise, the Cleveland Curse cracks its knuckles and takes its reward.  We certainly watched it happen.  I mean...seven errors in the last two games from the best defensive team in the American League.  That can only be the act of disappointed baseball gods.  C'mon, Cleveland.  Get your act together.

I want to take a moment, actually, to talk about Game 3 and how brilliant Carlos Carrasco's pitching was.  No one is talking about the work he did and I want to give him a special shout out here.  While Bauer was terrific in Game 1, he was back to his old hot headed tricks in Game 4.  And Kluber, what a mess.  He was considerably better in last night's outing, but he gave up just as many home runs in this crucial early innings where we needed a chance to ignite our offense and get it going.  It's a steep mountain to climb when your starter is shaky, making everyone think they have to crush the ball to Lake Erie and instead just rack up strike outs.  But Carrasco pitched a beauty.  It would have been nice to see him get another postseason start. 

Maybe next year.

Last night's game was tough with Kluber giving up a first inning home run and a third inning two run homer, both to shortstop Didi Gregorious, and our offense being completely shut down by Yankee starter CC Sabathia.  Signs of life came to our hitters in the 5th as they got four straight hits, scoring twice with only one out, before CC was booted from the game.  We had ourselves a ballgame with the score now 3-2, Yankees still out front.  But we had two on and Frankie Lindor was up to bat when reliever Dave Robertson got him to hit into an inning ending double play.

That was the play that lost us the game.  That was our chance.  But we couldn't get it done.

It still seemed like a comeback was possible as the score remained 3-2 until the top of the 9th when our closer Cody Allen gave up a run and then a second run scored on back to back throwing errors, making the score 5-2.  The Indians barely even made it interesting in the 9th as only Jose Ramirez reached base on a walk and our offense otherwise fizzled out.

It was a very depressing way to end this series.  Our ace, our closer, our incredible offense, and even better defense completely detonating. Listening to Hammy and Rosie call the last two games, it was right there in their voices:  they called the game sounding defeated as Indians player after Indians player struck out.  I've been listening to these radio guys most of my life and I can't ever remember them sounding so frustrated.  I felt that frustration.  All of us who love this team did.

I don't care who wins the American League Championship Series -- or the National League Championship Series -- nor do I care about the winner of the World Series.  My season is over.  Time to buck up for next year.

Terry Francona, thanks for a great regular season.  Sorry your postseason run was a short one -- we all hoped it would go differently.  But I'm excited to watch your ball club again in the spring.  Most of our key guys will be back, but there will be a shakeup in the off-season, too, there always is.  Jay Bruce, Bryan Shaw, Joe Smith, Michael Brantley, Josh Tomlin, Austin Jackson, and Carlos Santana are all possible free agents (there are options for Brantley and Tomlin), so it'll be interesting to see if they sign any of those guys.  It would be great to keep Santana -- he's been a cornerstone of this club for a long time.  But we'll probably lose him.  Bruce was helpful down the stretch and I've heard he'd like to stay in Cleveland, but again, we shall see.  It's hard to think about any of this stuff right now when what we should be thinking about is the ALCS.  

October baseball, how fickle you are.  I guess it was too much to hope that the Indians could make it back to the big dance two years in a row.

The silver lining to all of this, though, is the camaraderie that happens with my Tribe fan friends, near and far.  I've appreciated all the text messages, emails, and social media exchanges.  I've appreciated how tolerant my friends "in real life" have been with my mania, especially over the second half of the season when the team got rollin'.  It's such a lovely way to check in with folks and feel connected to friends all over the country.  Last night before the game, my 10-year-old nephew Landon FaceTimed me just to talk about our chances, and that kind of stuff is really what loving this sport is all about.  I don't know if football fans or basketball fans experience this kind of phenomenon.  America's favorite past time, right?  It certainly is mine.  And I think it's because there's so much to talk about with each and every game -- the stories that unfold in nine innings, the lives of the players and the managers both on and off the field.  And every team has its own narrative, its own set of circumstances that turn into a great jam session on game day, blending forces in a melodic way.  There's just nothing like baseball and I will continue to love it -- and my team -- even though it's so capable of breaking my heart, as it did last night.

Well, Cleveland Indians, there's still only one thing left to do:  win the whole f'ing thing.  Pull up a seat next to me and we can pass the time together until it happens.  We'll get there.  Someday.

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