The sports world generally agrees that Cleveland is some kind of cursed, right? Yes, LeBron brought a title to the town in 2016, and that cured some of what ails the city, but between the Indians and of course the Browns (Baker Mayfield and potential future success notwithstanding), there’s a cloud that hangs over some massive fanbases. Catastrophic failures and miserable slumps lurk around every corner, bitter disappointment is a constant friend. Really, it makes one think about what’s happened with the Indians.
Like really, how’d we get so lucky to have this team?
Let’s talk about Carlos Carrasco at the Home Run Derby the other night. Here we have a guy that less than a week ago got some of the most devastating news one could possibly receive. He has every right to pull away, to work on his own life and not wile the evening away with a silly little game. But instead there he was celebrating his teammates that made the All-Star team, wearing an insane custom shirt and cheering from the stands. The next night all his All-Star teammates stood at his side during Fox’s Stand Up To Cancer demonstration. You could convince yourself it was for show, but it was plain they cared, and he loved them for it. It’s incredible, almost as incredible as Jason Kipnis walking Cookie through his prognosis and his next steps. They’re just such wonderful guys, such good friends that we’ve seen grow up together, and they all are there for each other.
Carrasco is especially incredible among this group. Coming to the Indians as a 22-year-old, a totally new city that he probably knew nothing about as a throw-in on a trade, and over time he’s just fallen fully in love with the whole city. He’s basically going to be an Indian for his entire career, and wants to be, which is a rarity these days. Money being what it is in the game, his accepting what is probably a major discount for the team just because he “has enough” is a total oddity. It’s not often you see a guy sacrifice untold riches and the prospect of hundreds of millions for being content with what he has. Which is still great wealth, but that he’s not chasing the dollar is refreshing. Here he is, locked in to a contract with the Indians, a Favorite Son of Cleveland, born in Venezuela.
Then there’s Carlos Santana. The other day, while basking in the glow of being an All-Star, he remarked to Terry Francona how much he loves being in Cleveland. Now I’m not from Cleveland, but I’ve lived in the Midwest, and in medium-sized cities, and I can understand it. It grows on you, a sort of comfort like an old chair where even if you journey across the country, play in huge stadiums from Los Angeles to New York, coming home to your place by Lake Erie where everyone is a friend, it’s a rare pleasure. If only the Indians could bottle that and hand it off to prospective free agents to convince them to stay. Santana had a taste of the bigger city (Philly, but still) and found, like many of us have, that the Midwest has a special place in his heart that he just needed.
This all even ignores the sheer talent on the field, which is absurd when you think about it, and what I’ve written about before. No, this is about how much Santana and Carrasco and even Lindor (referring to Cleveland as “my city” so lovingly while miked up the other night) just embrace everything Cleveland. Maybe it’s blowing it out of proportion, and maybe these guys would be just as in love with another city if that one gave them the chance to play baseball for money. Santana did have that opportunity though, and go a lot of money from Philly for a year, and he’s ecstatic to be back home. Or look at guys like Michael Brantley the other night, who plainly still misses Cleveland, and the fans plainly still miss him. He was so at home he drove in the AL’s first run in classic Doctor Smooth RBI single fashion. It reminds you what could have been of course, but the happy memories live on for all of us.
Maybe other cities feel this way, embrace their team this way like Celveland does and feel blessed to have such great players and men on their team, I don’t know. I don’t follow other teams as closely. t’s hard to think that New York or Boston or Washington, DC has some who do, but if only because the place is so big, players aren’t quite as able to walk as equals among them. How many other cities could your Hall of Fame manager drive a silly little scooter to work every day? That is pure Cleveland right there.
With how long this whole crew has been together, with how lucky we’ve been to be able to root as much for the name on the back of the jersey as for the name on the front, it feels rare and special in an era with incredible turnover on sports teams. With how fluid NBA teams are and how faceless the army that is a football team is, this one core group that seems to include about 10 or 15 guys at this point that we adore allows us to appreciate the man as much as the player. How much longer it holds, we can’t know. But for now, and for the near future, a bunch of best friends are still playing baseball together in Cleveland. That’s something to be cherished.