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75 Years and Counting: The Story of the 2005 Cleveland Indians

So, so, so close.

Cleveland Indians v Kansas City Royals Photo by John Williamson /MLB Photos via Getty Images

The 2005 Indians are my favorite team from my childhood. I was 10 years old that season so I was starting to actually attain consciousness. I had moved into playing real baseball instead of coach pitch and whatnot, and that summer was the one where I became OBSESSED with the game. I was on two different teams that summer, I lived and breathed baseball, it consumed every single thought for me. I had also saved up allowance and lawnmowing money to purchase EA Sports’ MVP Baseball 2005 and I played that game any time I wasn’t either at practice or a game, or watching the Indians. It was all baseball all the time for me that year.

MVP Baseball 05 is a big part of why that Indians team was my favorite, I didn’t have a PS2 or PS3 so I never had access to the MLB The: Show series, and MVP Baseball 05 was the last MLB game EA ever made. I didn’t get into the 2k series until much later, so MVP 05 was the only way to get my baseball fix for about 5 years. So in addition to watching nearly every game that year, I also played through countless seasons of “Owner Mode” with that 2005 roster. No question the 2007 iteration of the roster was better, but the 2005 team were my guys. I loved every single one of them. I can name most of them from memory. If I ever had to pick a favorite team of all time it would be between 05, 13, and 16. Honestly, purely off of nostalgia 2005 would probably be it.

I had an English assignment my senior year of high school where I had to write about a “formative moment from my childhood.” I had plenty of topics I could’ve chosen from, my parents divorce, moving to a new school in middle school, my strained relationship with my father, but I chose to write about the 2005 Cleveland Indians, and how heartbroken I was with the way that season ended.

Chicago went wire to wire as the Central division champs that year and won 99 games, but according to pythagoras, Cleveland was the better team. Cleveland was the best pitching staff in the American League that year and scored 50 more runs than Chicago did. Unfortunately, despite a really good bullpen, they were utterly dreadful in one run games going an abysmal 22-36 in such games. Had they gone even .500 in one run games they’d have eclipsed 100 wins. They couldn’t hit quite like the ‘04 team did or the 90’s juggernauts, but they had enough firepower to win games behind their stellar pitching. Outside of some spot starts in doubleheaders by Jason Davis, the rotation of C.C. Sabathia, Jake Westbrook, Cliff Lee, Kevin Millwood, and Scott Elarton didn’t miss a single start. Millwood was directly involved in a number of those one run games, mostly losses as he struggled to get any run support and posted a 9-11 record despite a league leading 2.86 ERA. The team was so close to being unbelievable.

The offense was led by mostly the same group as the year before. Grady Sizemore hitting .289 with a .348 on base percentage and stealing 22 bases to go along with 22 home runs while playing excellent defense in center field. Travis Hafner had emerged as one of the premier sluggers in all of baseball and posted an OPS of 1.003 with 33 home runs. Victor Martinez and Coco Crisp continued to be excellent pieces while Jhonny Peralta, finally given a chance to take the everyday shortstop duties from Omar Vizquel, had a monster year slashing .292/.366/.520 with 24 home runs and playing better defense than he’s given credit for. Peralta was by no means a defensive wizard, but he was frequently panned for his defense which I attribute to growing accustomed to Vizquel’s wizardry over the previous 10 years. Suddenly league average looked terrible.

I will never forget coming off of that 17-2 stretch going into the last week of the season, an absurd 45-23 in the second half to that point, knowing that we ended the season with 3 games against the White Sox, we just needed to win 2 of our next 6 to essentially guarantee we’d make the wildcard. We dropped 2 of three to Tampa, clinching the division for Chicago who though only 3 games up with 3 to play, held the team vs. team record tiebreaker over Cleveland. We just needed to take one game from Chicago, a team that didn’t even need to win anyway, in order to be a virtual lock for the wildcard and two wins to remove all doubt.

They dropped all three games. I sat in our seats in section 155 for all three games. I was heartbroken.

That year was my 1997, my “Red Right 88” or “the Shot,” we just needed one more win and we were in. We were the hottest team in baseball with the best pitching staff and some of the best young players in the game, had we gotten in we were, in my 10 year old mind, a lock to win the world series just as I had so many times in MVP Baseball 05. But it would take 2 more years before that group got a taste, their only taste, of postseason play.

Join us tomorrow for the 2006 season, one of the most disappointing of my life.