19 Years of Waiting Has Been Worth Another Fun Week with Indians Baseball
BY JUSTIN LADA
In just a few hours time, Corey Kluber will deliver the first pitch in the World Series in 2016 for the Indians. Not bad for a 4th rounder out of Stetson in 2007. Even the indestructible Klubot missed a start this year, his first since 2013 when he had a finger issue.
For a lot that has gone wrong this year, a lot has gone right for the Indians. Even Opening Day went awry with freezing rain and cold temperatures that left fans soggy.
While they’d love to have a healthy Michael Brantley in left field in Game 1, it paved the way for Jose Ramirez to finally do what he’d done in the minors: hit - a lot.
When Carlos Carrasco pulled his hamstring in late April Trevor Bauer returned to the rotation after being demoted to the bullpen out of spring training and took a huge step forward in his development as a pitcher.
When Yan Gomes went down, Roberto Perez was rushed back, and while he struggled offensively, he has become one of the best pitch framers in baseball as well a dominant force shutting down the run game.
Josh Tomlin had to deal with a family medical emergency in August and struggled on the field. The Indians gave him some time off mentally and physically, and then Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco went down again (and for good this season) - Tomlin came back and has saved the Indians rotation since.
When their second and third best starters went down - two pieces that experts thought were the key to the Indians success in the playoffs when they got there - they had to change course.
Those injuries, while they made things more difficult, forced the Indians to reevaluate their strategy and unleash Andrew Miller on teams in the 5th inning. Before those injuries to Carrasco and Salazar, left handed relievers like Boone Logan and Fernando Abad looked like they’d be enough to shore up the Indians bullpen. Even without predicting the injuries, the Miller trade has put the Indians over the top and gives them a real chance at winning their first World Series title since 1948.
For someone who has spent the last nine years mostly covering Indians prospects and trying to help explain their importance, the trade for Miller put baseball in perspective between developing and winning. With a firm rotation, trading for Miller was the icing on the cake of the pitching staff. With a battered rotation, it became 10 times more important, proving when you get this far, take every chance you can to win because like tomorrow isn’t guaranteed in life, neither is getting this far a year from now.
So many things seemed to have gone wrong for the Indians this year, including mishaps with drones. But that only opened the world’s eyes to Ryan Merritt and his wedding registry with his fiancee Sarah to Clevelanders and his pennant clinching pitching performance that prompted fans to buy them most of their gift list.
Since the playoffs began, I’ve avoided making any predictions because the Indians keep doing what they’ve been doing all year - overcoming adversity and proving people wrong. Any pick I make involving the Indians either makes me look like a homer or negative. Instead, chose to predict that the Indians playoff run would be fun. I’ve been pretty right about that so far. Now they’re just four wins away from the ultimate goal. And their only facing another historic team with a historic drought. The Chicago Cubs haven’t made life very fun for the other major league teams that have faced them this year. So maybe this is where the Indians magic ends. Or maybe they win four more games in sweeping fashion or dramatic, seven game fashion. It would be heartbreaking to see the Indians get this far again and not complete the objective. But they got there. In a 162 (161) game season plus potentially 20 more in the playoffs, it’s a long year and to be one of the last two teams standing, considering what the Indians overcame, has been fun. Gut wrenching at times, but fun. Getting to see the Indians compete again for the ultimate prize will be fun. 19 years ago I was eight years old and I had seen two World Series for the Indians in three years. When the Florida Marlins won the 1997 World Series against the Indians, I told my Dad we’d be back. I didn’t think it would take 19 years. It’s going to be fun to get the chance to watch them compete for a World Series again. I don’t care if it takes another 19 years to get back and the prospects the Indians traded away win one in New York, this has been fun and the next week is going to be fun. Gut wrenching, but fun.