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On enjoying the 2019 Indians and looking forward

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There will be no baseball in October for the Indians, but there’s still plenty of work to be done

Cleveland Indians v. Washington Nationals Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Well, here’s a post I usually don’t like doing until at least mid-October.

But here we are, looking ahead to 2020 as the Indians are likely in the midst of packing up their belongings in the depths of Progressive Field and heading home for the winter. Home to watch the AL Central champion Twins take on the Yankees, and the Rays and A’s battle it out in the Wild Card. All spots the Indians could have been in if a few more things broke the right way, or were better prepared for.

There has to be a lot of regret there, whether or not anyone will admit it. Throughout a season, you have to constantly remind yourself that you can’t focus on the mistakes of one game — there are going to be countless games won or lost by a single decision, a single action. But if you get caught up in every single one, you’re going to drown in them.

For the Indians, it’s hard not to get caught up in it now that the season’s over. Before their five-game skid to end the season, they were technically within reach of the Twins. Just a few games away from winning their fourth consecutive AL Central title.

How many times could one pitch have swayed a game here or there? How many dropped balls in the outfield, or missed throws have given them the two or three games they needed to really hold a spark over the final week of the season? How many players could have been signed or traded for in the offseason to prevent those things? We’ll never really know for sure.

At least we can look back years from now and delude ourselves into thinking the Indians never had a chance. After all, they lost the division by eight games, and the Twins were a mammoth team that came out of nowhere. We can block out the miserable final week of the season where everyone just seemed to collectively sleep, quit, run out of gas — whatever you want to call it.

We’ll always have that magical 12 hour window where the Indians led the AL Central, though. Where they beat the Twins to take the lead on August 12 for the first time all season. Where Carlos Santana hit a grand slam to beat those mighty Minnesotans, or when he walked off the Red Sox with a solo shot just days later. Baker shotgunning a beer in the stands, Danny Salazar making a bizarre return, the bullpen swinging widely from dominant to dormant, the entire league rallying around Carlos Carrasco and his battle with leukemia, and of course Carlos Santana. The return of our golden boy!

So much good came from this season, even if the ending was one of the worst in recent memories; brought about by a lackadaisical offseason and a slew of injuries that no one could have seen coming. A few trades look like steals, including the mid-season acquisition of Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes for Trevor Bauer or the Yan Gomes deal that opened the door for Roberto Pérez to shine.

But how many free agents could have helped the Indians win more of thosefew precious games they needed by the end of the year? I’m not even talking sinking half a billion dollars into Bryce Harper either. Hell, with how hot Adam Jones started the season, how much could he have helped the Indians win a few games in April and May when they let the Twins stretch their lead to double digits?

I think, believe it or not, when I look back on the 2019 Indians it will mostly be with fondness. Not for the ownership slashing payroll, or Paul Dolan forever ruining the word “enjoy” before the season started. But for the players on the field, and everything they overcame. The emergence of Shane Bieber as a dominant starter, Aaron Civale looking like a mini Kluber, and Oscar Mercado grimacing his way into the Rookie of the Year conversation. THE FINGERGUNS.

When the Indians were charging back into the AL Central race, I often wondered if the season could possibly be enjoyable if they ultimately failed and didn’t make the postseason. Was it better to have a fun 162-ish games and no postseason, or trudge through the regular season for a predetermined postseason run that never happened? Knowing the ultimate outcome of both, I think I choose the former 2019 Indians over the latter 2018 squad.

This team was fun. And I guess that’s all we can really hope for sometimes. The wonderful thing about baseball is they’ll have another shot at doing it all again next year. Maybe, hopefully, with a better end result.

Just, please: Stop bunting.