Tomorrow is a sacred day. Opening Day. A day that harkens back to emotions past as we enter a new season– baseball returning to the hallowed grounds of The Jake. The commencement of spring intertwined with the beginning of a new MLB season– rebirth and hope. Another Tribe season begging to conclude with a World Series championship. Magic.
April 5, 1993, my first Opening Day game. The last Opening Day to be played in Municipal Stadium. I met Rocco Scotty that day. My first autograph was Cory Snyder. My second: Scotty. The Tribe lost, but it was symbolic for me. The beginning of the end of the old Indians. Countdown to new days that lay ahead. By the way, I had no idea who Scotty was.
For the pre-Jake Indians, futility was an understatement. I remember with fondness many of the 80s teams– players such as Joe Carter, Snyder, Greg Swindell, and Doug Jones– without the true understanding of what it meant to be a perennial loser. Browns’ fans can relate. The past 19 seasons of heartache, miscues, and ridicule from other fans and the media. But that has changed… Optimism! Hope! New feelings to a team that has been continually unsuccessful for the entirety of this century. You wish you could bottle it! Now, take those down years and double them. Then, add three more years for good measure. Such was the Indians run. The Indians went to the World Series in 1954 and did not make it back to the postseason until 1995– finishing over .500 only nine times in that span. I remember vividly when we clinched the division in 95. My dad muted the television to turn on Herb Score for the final inning so that he could hear him announce the postseason berth. The significance was palpable. It would be the start of something great.
Over the 24 years since this small market franchise in Cleveland, Ohio has made the playoffs 11 times– nearly 50%. We have made it to three World Series. Only five teams have been to the postseason more in that span and only four have been to more World Series. This has been an incredible run; especially coming out of the 41 years prior to 1995. This run introduced us to many Indian’s greats from the 90s teams: Kenny Lofton, Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, and Hall of Famer Jim Thome. I still look back on those glory days with pride and happiness; remembering how good those players and teams were. Players like CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, and Victor Martinez helped create a mini-window in the 2000s.1
The current window is no less stunning. The star power is nearly unprecedented in the history of Cleveland baseball. With Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, and Corey Kluber leading the charge, the 2018 Cleveland Indians had six 4.0+ fWAR seasons: Ramirez, Lindor, Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, and Mike Clevinger. I have written about the significance of the star power from that team here. All six are returning to a Tribe uniform– looking to build upon their success. Shane Bieber could well join their ranks in 2019 to push this group over the top.2 We have the corps to make this happen. We have the team to bring a World Series championship home.
Baseball has a funny way of entering my everyday psyche. I cannot look at the year 1995 without thinking of 100-44. Albert Belle’s 50 home runs and 52 doubles. Kenny Lofton scoring from second on a passed ball in the ALCS. 1997 makes me think of Sandy Alomar’s home run off of the best reliever of all time3 paving the way to the World Series. Jaret Wright. Chad Ogea doing it on the mound and with the bat. 20 years from now 2016 will still be Miller Time. It will be Rajai Davis’ homer off Aroldis Chapman with two outs, the bottom of the eight in Game 7 to tie the game. These memories make me happy. I don’t look upon them with contempt because we failed to bring it home. I look at them with joy: the pure enjoyment of the ride.
Baseball can be a cruel sport where a bounce can bring you glory or your demise. 2019 is a fresh start. We have the pieces in place. We have star power. Maybe, just maybe, the ball will bounce fortuitously this year. This we cannot control. Let us not focus on what we lack, but on what we have. This has been an amazing run by our Tribe. All the talk of closing windows can weigh heavy. As we enter another season chasing destiny I leave my fellow Tribe fans with one simple wish: enjoy the ride.