Generally, when a team averages 5.6 runs per game across an entire week, things are gonna shake out pretty good for them. When you’re the Cleveland Indians playing seven games against the inexplicably unbeatable Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees, however, the law of averages does not apply. Your (barely still in) first place Tribe (62-47) just lost 5 out of 7 and is now 13-17 since the end of that whacky 14-game win streak. They remain two games up on the surging Detroit Tigers, but everybody is already picking their favorite “wheels coming off” meme.
So yeah, after getting slowly run through a wood chipper in Minnesota (as is local tradition), Cleveland headed to the Bronx over the weekend—where they never win—hoping to take advantage of a Yankee team making its first foray into “rebuilding mode” since George Bush was president (the first one). It didn’t quite pan out, as the Yankees took two out of three and won the season series over Cleveland for the 13th time in the past 16 years.
There were some bright spots for Tribe fans, though, most notably the joint retirements of two of baseball’s most punchable faces—Mark Texieiraeriea and Alex Rodriguez. The sight of Andrew Miller mowing down his former team to seal Cleveland’s only win of the series was also nice, as was the continuing power outburst from the Tribe bats. Seemingly every guy on the team not named Mike Brantley will be setting career highs in the home run category this year. I’m not even sure I am exaggerating there.
And yet, still, nothing seems to be in sync right now. What are the odds that during the same period in which the Indians offense scored 5+ runs in 9 consecutive games (their longest such streak since 2002), they would also see five consecutive starting pitchers fail to complete five innings of work (the longest streak since 1985)? The answer: bad. Bad odds. Un-friggin’ lucky.
Hey, remember in the paragraph you just read, when I mentioned the worst five days of starting pitching since 1985? Well, if you need a refresher course on what we’re talking about here, the ’85 Tribe (“Catch the Fever!”) finished the season 60-102 and had a fairly astounding team ERA of 4.91. The five starters who failed to pitch five innings for 5 straight days that September: Neal Heaton, Don Schulze, Jamie Easterly, Tom Waddell, and Curt Wardle (yes, we had a Waddell and a Wardle, and they both sucked). One would not expect that a rotation that shockingly forgettable would end up in the same sentence as this universally celebrated 2016 group. But that’s where we’re at this week, for some reason. Baseball, etc.
Perhaps the sight of Josh Tomlin tossing BP on Friday night inspired you to check out the Summer Olympics opening ceremonies in Rio. If so, you were almost certainly lamenting the absence of baseball as an Olympic sport, as it was removed from the competition after the 2008 Games. What’s that? You had no idea baseball was no longer an Olympic sport? Oh, I misheard. Are you saying you never knew baseball was ever an Olympic sport in the first place? Hmm, well that’s fair. Since the Olympics are in the summer and no MLB team would let its players leave in the middle of the regular season, we’ve never had the sort of “Dream Team” moment that would inspire any baseball fans—casual or otherwise—to pay much mind to this tradition, or lack thereof.
The Olympic baseball events in 1984 and 1988 weren’t even legitimate medal competitions; they were deemed a “demonstration” sport—just for shits and giggles. Even so, quite a few future Major League stars took part in those games, and the same would be true when things switched over to official tournament play from 1992-2008. Cuba won three of the five Gold Medals in that era, by the way, and the USA managed just one, back in 2000. Pat Borders was on that team.
Pat Borders, you say? Well, now I am intrigued! What other legendary former Cleveland Indians represented their country in the likely-now-abandoned stadiums of glorious past Olympiads?
Well, I shan’t be listing all of them, but you’ll be pleased to know that at least one member of the Tribe fraternity did indeed take part in every Olympic baseball “thing” from 1984 onward. Here are some of those inspiring patriots.
Cleveland Indians in the Olympic Games!!!
Cory Snyder – 1984 USA Team
Charles Nagy – 1988 USA Team
Jason Giambi – 1992 USA Team
Casey Blake – 1996 USA Team
Pat Borders – 2000 USA Team (“Gold Medal, baby!” – Pat Borders)
Masa Kobayashi!- 2004 Japan Team (USA didn’t compete)
Matt LaPorta – 2008 USA Team (“Don’t think about a punchline here.” –Matt LaPorta)