If you have no vested interest in any team still alive in the MLB playoffs, it’s hard not to start rooting for history to be made. And that doesn’t mean cheering for the Chicago Cubs. No. It is time to jump on the Cleveland Indians bandwagon. That poor city has had to endure so much heartbreak over the years; how can anyone root against them?
Buoyed by the success of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, something special is in Cleveland’s water this year. The Indians went 94-67 this season on their way to an AL Central Division title. Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli each clubbed 34 home runs during the regular season, and the Indians’ offense as a whole was the second-best in baseball.
Cleveland’s karmic imbalance was somewhat corrected this summer after LeBron, Kyrie, JR, Kevin Love and co. brought home the city’s first championship in 52 years. However, who says the good luck has to end there? The Cavaliers, also known as the men who currently hold the key to the city, have been on hand to witness the Indians’ playoff run so far. They helped hype up the crowd before Game 2. They’re sharing their magic with Terry Francona, a man who knows a little something about bringing magic back to a city.
Cleveland was not handed the easiest road through the playoffs. Things began with a difficult matchup against the Boston Red Sox backed by David Ortiz and Mookie Betts. The Indians popped their bubble immediately, clinching a sweep on Monday night within the hallowed grounds of Fenway Park. With Boston bested, Cleveland now turns its eyes to a best of seven series with the Toronto Blue Jays, proud owners of baseball’s best offense. Both offenses look nigh unstoppable. Toronto also blew through the American League Division Series, vanquishing the Texas Rangers in three games. However, it feels wrong to bet against Cleveland at the moment.
With the Browns continuing to play like the Browns, and the NBA season still several weeks away from starting, there’s nothing for the city to focus on besides the Indians. All of its good vibes are being directed at Progressive Field, where a little slice of history feels like it’s being fashioned. After the Chicago Cubs, who are widely predicted to break their 108 year curse this fall, the Indians have gone the longest of any team in Major League Baseball without winning a World Series. It’s been 68 years since the halcyon days of Joe Gordon, Ken Keltner, Lou Boudreau, Bob Lemon, Bob Feller, Larry Doby, Satchel Paige and Gene Bearden, when the Indians last won baseball’s greatest prize.
That’s not to say there haven’t been moments when they’ve come close to replicating that famed success. The American League pennant was won again in 1954, 1995 and 1997. Defeats ensued to the New York Giants over four games in ’54, to the Atlanta Braves over six games in ’95 and, most painfully, to the Florida Marlins over seven in ’97. Against Florida, Cleveland was within reaching distance of finally winning it all. The Indians entered the ninth inning leading 2-1 only to see Craig Counsell tie the game with a sacrifice fly. Two innings later, the man who had prevented them from winning the game reached base after an error by Tony Fernandez. He went on to score the game’s winning run after Edgar Renteria lined one into center.
There have been other close calls since then. In 2007, behind the pitching of CY Young Award winner CC Sabathia, Roberto Hernandez and Paul Byrd and the hitting of Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner, the Indians led the Red Sox three games to one in the American League Championship Series only to lose the final three games. However, things feel like they’re finally changing in Cleveland. LeBron has brought back hope.
If the Cavs can come back from 3-1 down against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals—winning two games on the road on the way —then why can’t the Indians win the pennant? Why can’t they go on to win the World Series? Why can’t the city of Cleveland have a season for the ages? Go on, go and do it. Baseball’s neutrals, us unfortunate many stranded without a team still playing in October, are behind you. Let’s go Cleveland.