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Hustle Double Debate: Which was the better era of Cleveland baseball?

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The mid-nineties juggernauts vs. the magic of streaking

Welcome to the second Hustle Double debate! Our question this week comes from the mind of previous loser Matt Schlichting (Editors note: Merritt no), who asked Was ‘94-’01 or ‘13-’20 the better era of Cleveland baseball?”

Merritt Rohlfing and Chris Davies volunteered for the debate. We apologize for the slight delay in the posting of our debate; everything keeps happening so much all of the time, you know?

The winner of our debate will be determined by your votes! In the poll before the debate, 89% of voters believed that 1994-2001 was the better era of Cleveland baseball, 8% voted for 2013-2020, and 3% said that they weren’t sure.

The debater who moves a larger proportion of the vote will be judged the winner of today’s Hustle Double, while the loser is awarded a TOOTBLAN.

Let us begin.

Rohlfing: Introduction, Arguing on Behalf of 2014-2019

Major League Baseball has seen inequality rise starkly the last 20 years. With free-agent costs and arms races for front office brain power increasing every year, teams that don’t come from one of about five cities are forced to fight in the margins for success. For a team from northern Ohio to win more games than any other team in the American League over the last eight years and stand with (and sometimes push around) the big boys of the game is incredible.

This most recent window contention in Cleveland has been its finest since Larry Doby and Rocky Colavito roamed the outfield. While it led to only one World Series appearance, a classic heartbreaker as tradition demands, the snapshots from those years are untouchable, the stories the fans will remember and tell their own kids indelible. The 14- and 22-game win streaks, Kluber and Co. in 2016, the flipping of the script on the once-mighty Tigers after years of being under their heel (48-80 from 2009-2015, 65-20 since 2016), there’s so many storylines and tales to tell. Then there are the stars themselves.

A rotation of aces? Check. An MVP candidate or two every single year? Check. Beloved underdogs like Kip and Brantley and J-Ram becoming stars from anonymity? Triple check. And of course Lindor, the most magical player to wear a Cleveland uniform in 50 years. This team, these players, this run, will be talked about with wonder in the annals of the franchise for decades to come.

Davies: Introduction, Arguing on Behalf of 1994-2001

For Cleveland baseball fans of a certain age, we became baseball fans with a consistent winner. We learned to love the American pastime while cheering for six division titles in eight years, including five in a row, two World Series trips, and a close run in 1999. We felt earnest love for a city long deprived of civic pride and felt one with those in the stands for 455 consecutive sold out games.

The final analysis of this group is not written in stone yet, but we’ve already seen Eddie Murray, Roberto Alomar, and Jim Thome enshrined in Cooperstown, the latter wearing a Cleveland “C” on his cap. Coming years should see Kenny Lofton get the respect he deserves and might see Omar Vizquel in the Hall as well, both of whom are best remembered for efforts in Cleveland. Had Manny Ramirez been less obvious about his cheating, he’d be in the Hall of Fame, and one day CC Sabathia will surely join the ranks as well. The group of players that played in Cleveland between 1994 and 2001 was incredible and also incredible for their longevity with the team, unlike more recent years, in which players have been moved during their prime to maximize the future benefit for the club.

To borrow from Merritt’s argument, inequality has increased considerably in the last 20 years. Thus, for the 1994-2001 Cleveland teams to have achieved so much when the league had more parity makes them even more impressive.

Rohlfing: Rebuttal

When we talk about pride of a city, what town was more gutted than Cleveland circa 2013? The Browns a punchline in the NFL, LeBron celebrating his second title with the wrong team, what did Cleveland have except baseball to cure their collective woes? Since 2013, this team gave the city something direly needed — winning. They haven’t had a losing season since Francona came to town. The Cavs were the ones to break the title curse (and who could be mad about that) but there’s something to be said for baseball as the center of civic pride when most needed.

Davies: Response

Perhaps Francona hasn’t had a losing season in Cleveland, but he’s just repeating what Mike Hargrove and Charlie Manuel did from 1994-2001. Oh, and during that span, they only missed the playoffs twice, compared to three times under Francona, and it was harder to make the playoffs in those years. If baseball were truly the center of civic pride, wouldn’t Francisco Lindor’s likeness have adorned the Sherwin Williams building sometime in the last few years? The 455 in the outfield speaks for itself in terms of civic pride.

Rohlfing: Conclusion

I don’t have the benefit of sepia-tinged memories of this team. This era still happening, with no real sign of stopping. Cleveland isn’t going away, won’t face the slippage of the early 2000’s. The team has a recent past, a now, and a clear future. That seems important to me.

Davies: Conclusion

I have an entire book about one year from my era, Zack Meisel’s Cleveland Rocked. As much as I’ve enjoyed 2013-19, I don’t envision a book about any of those teams. The 1995 team is perhaps the greatest not win a title, and 1994-2001 was certainly the greater period.

VOTE

Poll

Was 1994-2001 or 2013-2020 the better era of Cleveland Baseball?

This poll is closed

  • 81%
    1994-2001
    (146 votes)
  • 13%
    2013-2020
    (25 votes)
  • 5%
    I’m not sure!
    (9 votes)
180 votes total Vote Now