The Cleveland Indians are alone in first place in the AL Central!
At 72-47, the Indians are a half-game up on the Minnesota Twins. The Indians have the fourth-best record in all of baseball, behind only the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Houston Astros. Just let this all sink in for a second.
Remember, the Indians were 29-30 on June 2. They trailed the Twins by 11.5 games. The Indians have gone 43-17 since that time. They are on a scorching pace that perhaps defies explanation just as much as the early struggles did. When the Indians dropped back-to-back games to the Orioles by scores of 13-0, they were nine games behind the Twins. More than once this season I have proclaimed the season over.
No, really, I did.
“The summer is supposed to be the Indians’ time in Cleveland. And under Terry Francona, they have pretty much always delivered. But if the Indians are really done already this soon in June, it means summer is pretty much already over. Because if I don’t have good baseball to occupy my mind this summer, it means my attention is going to drift to the Cleveland Browns. Training Camp usually begins around the last week of July, which is less than two months from now. Essentially, as long as it’s been since the Cavs played their last game. This is the sweet spot for the Indians, and it’s time for them to make something happen. If they don’t, summer is already over.”
As usual, I was entirely over-dramatic in the moment. Instead of a wasted summer, we’ve had one of the most fun summers of baseball I can ever recall. From hosting the All-Star weekend to Shane Bieber winning All-Star MVP to acquiring Yasiel Puig to just game after game of incredible baseball. All of it has been an absolute blast.
In fact, I would argue that this has already become one of my favorite Indians teams of all time. I know, I know…I’m perhaps being over-dramatic in the moment again. But I don’t know. I don’t think I am. I feel more connected to this Indians team than any I can recall since….I dunno, 1997?
Sure, I loved the run at the World Series in 2016. I watched all those playoff games. It was a blast. I wanted them to win and I was crushed when they didn’t. But I’d be lying if I said I watched them play at all that regular season. I’m sure I caught a game here or there, but I couldn’t tell you the first thing about that season. I was a fan of Frankie Lindor already and I was also a Jason Kipnis fan. I knew Corey Kluber was awesome. I followed the storylines of the season, sure. I read the stuff WFNY writers were putting out. But I wasn’t connected.
This year, I am connected. I can tell you everything about how this season has progressed. Without a Cavaliers postseason run to distract me, I’ve been all-in on the Indians from the start. I’ve listened to the Dery Brothers podcast. Every single episode. I listen the day it comes out. I don’t just read WFNY articles. I engage in conversations with friends, family, and WFNY staff about the Indians. And for the first time in decades, I feel like I know what I’m talking about. A little, anyway.
I can’t put my finger on what it is that drew me in this year. I’ve talked ad nauseam about the effect Lindor has had on myself and my relationship with baseball and the Indians. So that’s part of it. I’ve talked about the luxury of always being surrounded by such brilliant baseball writers at WFNY. That always helps. But there’s something else.
Even when the team was struggling early in the season, I never hopped off the bandwagon. Yes, I proclaimed the season over and all that. But I always held out hope for the Wild Card. I routinely would tell people….get in the Wild Card game and see what happens. With the pitching staff the Indians have, I’d never count them out of a series. I never stopped watching, never stopped listening to podcasts, never stopped reading.
I think at the core of everything, I simply find this to be the most likeable Indians team since those 90s team. Not everyone will agree with me, and I’m fine with that. This is a personal story. The return of Carlos Santana was the start. Having the luxury of watching Oscar Mercado in Columbus earlier this season and now seeing him in Cleveland has helped a ton1. Wanting to “enjoy” Frankie as much as I can while I still can is part of it. The personalities of the players, the depth of the pitching staff, player after player stepping up when needed. It’s all created the perfect storm.
And now I find myself feeling a little bittersweet. August is half over. There’s only a month and a half of the season left, and then the playoffs. I don’t want this season to end. Boy, I’m going to miss this team. I have no reason to suspect the team won’t be good again next year. I certainly hope I’ll be able to follow the team just as closely again next year. But I learned from those Cavs teams that I loved. Success is fleeting and no matter how much the core may be the same, no two teams are ever quite the same.
In Trevor Bauer’s awesome farewell to Cleveland video, he talked about trying to live in that moment. “This moment, this game, this time…is special.”
Thank you, Cleveland. pic.twitter.com/OJ4mxCKbq4
— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) August 1, 2019
“The city, the players, the organization…this moment is special. And in this moment, we all realize it’s special. We feel it will never end. We don’t want it to end. But every streak has to end. The finality is what makes it so special.”
Trevor, of course, was talking about the 22-game win streak. But he used it as a metaphor for his time in Cleveland. Well, I’m using it as a metaphor for my connection to this team.
Mid-August may feel like a strange time for a piece like this. It feels like I’m saying goodbye to an old friend while they’re still here. And perhaps that’s a bit of what I’m doing. I want to recognize how special this era of Indians baseball has been, and specifically for me, this season. I want to just pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and look at my surroundings and recognize. This team is special to me.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with the rest of this season. Beating the Astros in the playoffs seems like a daunting task. The Yankees’ lineup is beyond frightening. The Indians have overcome so much, but at some point do all the injuries and lineup changes catch up to you? I don’t know, and I don’t care about any of that. This is precisely why I’m taking a time out today to just appreciate where we are and how we got here.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. When the Indians were 11.5 games out of first in June, this season was supposed to be over. Today, just two months later, the Indians are in first place. This team has been a pure joy to watch this season and I’m so excited to be on this journey and see where we go from here.