There’s a line in the finale of The Office where Andy Bernard notes “I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them.” I was thinking about that the other day. See, my dad got me that Terry Pluto/Tom Hamilton-authored book Glory Days in Tribe Town. It’s about the first couple years at Jacobs Field and the insane dominance of the Indians and how the city truly and utterly seized upon them and it all just became a kind of cultural force of nature. And, of course, the team being just stunningly good. It’s looked back upon as the most perfect era in Tribe baseball, to which all else is compared. The good old days, you might say. I wasn’t really old enough to truly appreciate it sadly. It’s a half memory, like a tale told by a town elder. But it did infect a young boy with a terminal illness called Indians fandom. This run they’re on now, I really hope I, and really any fan of the team, can take a moment to really appreciate how excellent the Indians have been for nearly five years now. These are the times we’ll remember.
Of course the ends to both of the last two seasons was hideous, the painful letdown of 2016 made worse by the collapse and strange decision-making that plagued the Tribe's short 2017 postseason run. There's good reason to be just bitterly disappointed, having to deal with a long, cold winter with only that sour taste as the Yankees celebrated on the field in Cleveland as a lasting memory. To simply not care that Corey Kluber was utterly brilliant this year because he was only bad when it truly mattered. Or to completely gloss over the incredible offensive strides two young infielders made because they did basically nothing in the playoffs. But damn, was that not a fun season?
That’s two years now that the Indians have gone on runs where I just assume they’ll never lose again. Both in June 2016 and August/September 2017, in the midst of each streak, didn’t it feel just right? Like the team was just performing as it should? Bauer pitching as we hope he always can, the offense clicking just right, the ‘pen being shutdown. There has been an expectation of victory. That’s what makes this such a dazzling run. I wasn’t really cognizant of life when they were on their run in the 90s, winning 100 out of 144 games and going to war in October and blasting starting pitchers out of the park. But this, what we see right now on the field, this is dominance. This is what every fan wants, every day. That feeling that your team is invincible. Yeah, the playoffs were garbage, but the season was magic. The whole Francona era has just been one imbued with hope from Opening Day till the last pitch. That hope, that confidence that the team will figure it out and pull off something miraculous, that is hard to do in any situation with any payroll. That the Tribe pulls it off is nothing short of spectacular.
It’s silly to think, but my favorite Francona-led season might actually be 2014. It was the year we got Superstar Brantley, the year Kluber was replaced by that cyborg from another dimension or time or whatever, but before they had really made the leap to contender. But even with having to suffer through one more year of Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, even with winning seven less games than the year before and even with missing the playoffs, it was the first time it really felt real. Like there was something special in the offing. We still had Francisco Lindor to look forward to along with dreams of a Naquin/Zimmer/Frazier outfield, even if that got cut down to a third of that trio when those dreams were realized. Since that year it’s been a steady rise to the crescendo of a 22-game win streak. It’s hard to find better baseball than that. That 2014 team felt sold, tangible. Not like that 2013 team, making it to the Wild Card game with a pitching staff led by Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez and with an offense led by Jason Kipnis, Ryan Raburn and Yan Gomes. That was incomprehensible, especially in retrospect.
In five or ten years, when the Indians are inevitably bad again, hopefully there’s a trophy to look back on as a capstone of this whole era. If that happened you’d be hard-pressed to find a better stretch of Tribe baseball. But even without it, you know the same books will be written, this time by Jordan Bastian and TJ Zuppe. And probably still Terry Pluto, the man is eternal. They’d have every reason to chronicle this era. The players on this team will go down in history as some of Cleveland’s greatest athletes. Some might even make the Hall of Fame. We’re watching history, legends being forged. I just hope the demands of a championship don’t dull that, don’t let us see what is before us and appreciate it. This time right now, these are the good old days.