Picking Up the Pieces from the World Series and Moving On
BY JUSTIN LADA
It’s been almost two weeks now since the Chicago Cubs overcame the Indians 3-1 World Series lead. It still hurts to type that, even though I’m now just getting around to putting some thoughts into words from that loss, mostly because of life and not wanting to do it right after. Life getting in the way is a good thing, because I certainly needed a break from baseball after the loss but now I’ll try to cover every thought in that series.
Corey Kluber went cutter heavy in Game 7 after catching Cubs hitters off guard against his two seam in Game 1 and then relying heavily on the breaking ball in Game 4. It didn’t work. His velocity in Game 7 was actually better than it was in Game 4 but the cutter didn’t fool the Cubs and they hammered it. (ISO vs. Kluber in 2016 playoffs provided by Brooks Baseball)
The Indians really didn’t have any other options than Kluber. A lot of people wanted to see Ryan Merritt or Danny Salazar in some sort of tandem in one of the games.Merritt would have been a big risk and only started in the ALCS because the Indians planned “bullpen game” happened when Trevor Bauer’s finger turned into the Thing on the mound. Had Bauer been able to go at least four or five innings, the bullpen game would have followed in Game 5 and the Indians would have had Kluber on normal rest in Game 5.
Salazar still wasn’t throwing curveballs and his command was spotty. Trusting him for three innings in the most important games of the year in non-garbage time was also risky.
I’m probably one of the few people who thought Bauer pitched pretty well in Game 5. He had five strikeouts coming into the 4th inning. The leadoff homer by Kris Bryant though seemed to wake the Cubs up. That’s where I thought we were seeing where the tide of the series could shift despite the Indians 3-1 lead. Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist’s doubles were tough hits following the homer but after that, the Cubs had two infield hits and a sac fly that were too much to overcome. But he pitched fairly well in that game outside of three hitters in one inning.
I also liked Terry Francona’s decision to go to Bauer in the 10th to follow up Bryan Shaw. It’s a situation Bauer had thrived in before should the Indians have tied it up in the 10th again. I had no issue with Francona sticking with Shaw out of the rain delay, however after Zobrist’s double, I would have probably not let Shaw continue and went to Bauer sooner if he was ready.
As a fan, when 5-1 and again 6-3, I tried to distance myself from the Indians having any chance from coming back to win like rejecting something to avoid getting hurt. Rajai Davis made me lose my mind when he hit that homer. Then Jason Kipnis’ long foul ball made me think it was finally over.
When it was over, I couldn’t watch baseball or any sports for that matter for a few days. I held out on social media long enough to avoid seeing any photos of the Cubs parade. I needed the distance because in 1997, at 8 year old, I told my dad we’d be back in the World Series when they lost. I didn’t think it would take 19 years. I’ll be 46 years old if it takes 19 more years to do it again.
Even assuming Michael Brantley and Danny Salazar return to full health and form in 2017, there’s no guarantee the Indians can navigate the playoffs the same way. I won’t count Carlos Carrasco in the injury rehab because his injuries were freak injuries. But there’s just no guarantee things break their way in October again. For how good the Indians were in the 90s, they won the AL Central six times in seven years but only made it to the World Series twice in a three year span in the middle of the run. Because of baseball’s changed landscape and inflation, there’s less guarantee even with their talented roster that they make it back.
I think that’s what hurt the most about the loss. Not that they lost but considering they managed to win the American League without any contributions from Salazar, Carrasco and Brantley. Personally, I was going to be content with beating Boston in the first round. I just wanted this group to win a playoff series and have a chance in the ALCS. They did more than that but Game 3 against Boston felt like Game 7 of the World Series to me. What they did was amazing and I wanted them to win one more game. They did something I’d never seen as an Indians fan. But it just hurt knowing how close they were and how hard it is to get back even healthy.
Seeing Francisco Lindor, Corey Kluber, Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez, Carlos Santana and Cody Allen get their national recognition was one of the best parts about this. This hurts as bad as 97 for me but it doesn’t feel like 2007 where it ended up being the last playoff appearance for that group. And once you get in, anything can happen.
POSTED 11/14/2016 13:23