As the 2012 season comes to a close, Indians fans are left to ponder one of the more frustrating seasons in the team’s recent history. On May 17 the team was in first place with a four game lead on their closest competitor. The Tribe actually spent more days in first place than the eventual champion of the AL Central, the Detroit Tigers. Unfortunately, they had the second worst record in the majors over the second half of the season, behind only the Houston Astros. The Indians stumbled to the finish line in 2012 as they lost 53 of their last 77 games, and had an overall record of 68-94. I never expected this team to win 100 games, but at the same time, I never would have predicted that they would lose more than 90. It was a frustrating season both as a fan, and as a blogger. The team’s shortcomings were so blatantly obvious, it started to feel ridiculous pointing them out day after day, week after week throughout the season. As someone who is already a rather cynical and sarcastic person, I found my bitterness running often unchecked, particularly after the All-Star break.
That’s not to say that there were not high points this season, or fun moments for me both as a fan and as a writer. Two of my favorite games actually came during the dismal second half – one on September 16 against the Detroit Tigers, and the other against the Chicago White Sox this past Tuesday night. Until September 13, the Indians had been 1-75 when trailing after eight innings. They came back on the Texas Rangers on the 13th, and then came from behind to beat the Tigers just three days later. Against the Tigers, they fought back from a 3-0 deficit to go up 5-3. The Tigers quickly responded in the top of the seventh inning with three runs, and before I knew it, the Indians had surrendered their lead. On this particular day, some of the most obnoxious fans I’ve ever seen at Progressive Field were sitting next to me. They weren’t content to just cheer for the Tigers, they had to scream at, and taunt, every Indians fan in the vicinity throughout the game. This group was so loud and obnoxious, most of the outfield section cleared out to find seats elsewhere in the stadium (not difficult to do when half of the park is empty). My friend and I made it until the eighth inning, before we chose to stand at the back of a section near home plate. At that point, the Indians mounted their comeback and won in a walk-off against Jose Valverde. I felt that karmic justice was served.
Tuesday night’s game was also an exciting walk-off win. After Chris Perez surrendered the lead, it looked pretty bleak. Down 3-1, it was the bottom of the lineup that would face a practically unhittable Jake Peavy. With Hafner to the plate, I fully expected him to strike out or weakly ground out to the right side of the infield. Instead he slammed a two-run home run down the right field line. I thought for sure it was foul, until I saw it bank off of the foul pole. A game that looked like a quick loss (it was barely past 9 p.m. when Hafner hit his bomb), suddenly turned to give the Indians hope. When they won in the 12th, I figured it was a great way to close out the season, since I was unable to attend Wednesday’s game due to my plans to attend the Louis CK show at Severance at 10 p.m.
Something strange happened after that game. Despite my frustration on the season, and the fact that the Indians were clobbered the night before, 11-0, I couldn’t stand the fact that the season was ending (even though I completely felt ready to see it end a couple of weeks ago). I decided to go see the first half of Wednesday’s game before I headed to Severance – just to sit outside and watch baseball one last time, even if it wasn’t for an entire game. No matter how bad the Indians play, I know I’ll always come back for more – I’ve already submitted my season ticket deposit for next year and am currently planning my trip to Arizona for spring training. There’s something so peaceful and pleasurable about watching baseball outside on a beautiful summer’s day, that no matter how bad the product on the field, no matter how angry it makes me, I will always come back for more. By January I’m sure that I’d be willing to give anything even to see Ubaldo Jimenez pitch, or Casey Kotchman hit a weak grounder to second.
As we enter the cold months of winter, we’ll have nothing but the hot stove discussion to keep us warm. Even if I don’t have much hope that the Indians will make significant improvements in the offseason, I will still anxiously await their next game on April 2, 2013 in Toronto. When it comes down to it, I’d rather have baseball that’s painful to watch at times, than no baseball at all.