Indians 3, Red Sox 1
Tribe finishes season at 81-80
I haven't during my 30 years as an Indians fan tended to be an optimistic one. I suppose that in my earliest years following the team, when my fandom mostly involved hoping to find some Tribe players in the baseball cards I opened and checking scores in the newspaper most morning, I probably had pretty high hopes, but coming close but not quite in 1995 and 1997 smothered much of that, and the 2000s took care of most of the rest.
This spring though, I talked myself into thinking the Indians would be pretty good. I thought they'd be in the mix for the AL Central all season, and would manage to win a Wild Card spot if they couldn't quite win the division. Expecting a postseason berth for the Tribe is not my default setting, but on Opening Day, there I was.
The Indians came out of the gate terribly, falling to 10-19 at one point, worst record in the American League, their chances at winning the division basically finished before the middle of May. Not long after that the Tribe won six in a row and eleven of fourteen, pulling back within a game of .500, but they couldn't ever quite get over the hump. The day my private hopes of a postseason spot this season died was June 28th, when the Indians were shut out in both games of a doubleheader, something the team hadn't done in forty years.
While I no longer thought the team could make the postseason, I kept following the team as closely as ever, because that's what I do. Meanwhile, the Indians weren't as fazed by the doubleheader debacle as I was, since they won their next five games. In fact, after that day, they went 48-39 the rest of the way, fourth-best record in the American League, and they posted a run differential of +68, second in the AL to only Toronto.
The Indians never quit, and this afternoon they finished the year on a high note, sweeping Boston at Progressive Field.
While the particulars don't especially matter at this point, Danny Salazar picked up the win after striking out six in 5.1 innings. As they have many times in recent years, Bryan Shaw pitched a scoreless 8th and Cody Allen pitched a scoreless 9th, picking up his 34th save of the season. On a fairly quiet day, the offense was led by two players who'll have plenty of questions swirling around them this offseason, in terms of their role on the team in 2016: Lonnie Chisenhall and Giovanny Urshela.
Lonnie, third baseman of the recent past, has played fantastic defense in his new role as the team's right fielder, but after hitting well in August, he struggled at the plate during the season's final month, and questions about his ability to put enough offense to make the defense worth playing remain. Monstro, would-be third baseman of the future, plays much better defense at the hot corner than Tribe fans had seen in a while, but there are plenty of doubts about his ability to hit well enough to stick in the starting lineup too. The Indians have the money to upgrade a position or two this offseason if they want to, and right field and third base could both be in the discussion, but it's a discussion for another day.
Today's victory moves the Indians' final record to 81-80, which, while not a spot in the postseason, is a winning record, and it's the third year in a row they've won more than they've lost.
The last three years have been quite a ride. New names have been brought in, and while some have worked out better than others, I think it's fair to say things have generally gone well. We've seen Corey Kluber and Michael Brantley each go from something a little better than average to among the very best in the game. We've seen Jason Kipnis rise, then fall, then rise again. Carlos Carrasco took what was probably his final opportunity as starter and became one of the AL's very best. Carlos Santana... Well, wherever you land on him, we can all agree he has certainly inspired a lot of conversation. (Team Carlos for life!)
I would like to think things are better now than they were three years ago.
We waited patiently for Francisco Lindor, and were rewarded with him being even better than expected. He won't win the award for it, but he was the best rookie in the American League this season, and looks like a star for years to come. He and all the guys I listed above, along with Yan Gomes and Danny Salazar, they're all locked up for another two years or more. Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier (among others) both had great seasons on the farm, which looks stronger than it has in years.
Most of us aren't old enough to have seen the Indians atop all of baseball, but I think they're headed in the right direction. Will they get there? I don't know. No one knows. All any of us can do is wake up each day and give it our best. I'm happy that when I wake up, it's as a Cleveland Indians fan.
Things won't be the same in 2016, but I'm hopeful that the changes that come will be for the better.
It'll be a different year.
...Maybe it'll be the year.
Win Expectancy Chart
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Small group today, but when you've got YDW leading the way, you're in good hands.