It is 12:22 AM, Tuesday morning. Normally about this time, I am scouring pointless Internet drivel in the hopes that, well, my general nocturnal self tires out and I can quickly crash until morning. Only I’m usually still tossing and turning then, anyway, so I guess I just can’t win. Typically, it’s my fault; I’m a caffeine junkie. I shouldn’t have a Mountain Dew past 9 PM.
But tonight… Oh, tonight… I’m wide awake for a much different reason. It’s been a great fall and winter season to be an Indians fan. It has been a long time since we have all felt this…electricity. This buzz that, last October, felt like pure impossibility.
These are the Cleveland Indians. Always betting on the potential of their players, yet ultimately rolling snake-eyes almost ever single time for a number of different factors. Next year, we were certain that we’d be seeing essentially the same thing. A strong start marred by the ever-present what-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong collapse.
The ’90s are now watching their kids head to college. That’s how long it’s been. And the ’07 season now looks like the proverbial “lightning in a bottle” scenario: A simple teasing reminder of how it used to be, complete with a final go around for Mr. Lofton. A fleeting gift from the baseball gods, if you will. And Kenny was stuck at third. Remember, these are the Indians.
We trudged though the Manny Acta “era” because he talked well, sold well, and wore flashy fedoras. He was high on the list of many in baseball for his baseball IQ, despite of his previous failure in Washington. He schmoozed us all into thinking he was the guy who would, on his second opportunity, be able to figure it out and become that next great, young manager to take the Indians, and Cleveland, who was still smarting from You-Know-Who’s inglorious exit, back to national sports prominence. Back to the Jake’s glory days.
He ended up giving off the air of being uninterested. Content to let a season crash and burn because he wasn’t able to find the right buttons to push. And his teams followed suit. He wouldn’t even defend Jack Hannahan as Jack took it upon himself to dress down Mike DiMuro on that infamous foul no-call in Yankee Stadium. Jack, obviously, got tossed. Acta just stood silently. Remember, these are the Indians.
By this point, most Indians fans have turned their attention to the Browns. There’s nothing to say about this team. The sad-sack franchise where ownership seemed content to say that they own a team, but either felt powerless or they felt indifferent to even trying to upgrade the team; now apparently gun-shy from acquisitions repeatedly blowing up in their faces. These are now the Indians. No remembrance needed.
Sometimes the only way out of the hole is to rely on a friend to help throw a rope. I never thought that it would be the basis of the turn for the Indians, but on October 7, that’s precisely what happened. The Francona Effect was about to begin. And hopefully new memories will be made to push the painful and languished memories further back.
It is amazing what prestige can do to allow a franchise to immediately feel better about itself. It is amazing that true professional courtesy and friendship can lead to a true “Big Dog” of the sport can be, by all appearances, completely enthused by the idea of leading a downtrodden team when, aside from Philadelphia and Boston (although…), he could’ve had any job he wanted?
No. It was either Cleveland, or back to the Sunday Night booth with Dan Schulman and Orel Hershiser. Really, it’s been five months now, and I still can’t wrap my head around it. REMEMBER, THIS IS CLEVELAND, FOR CRYIN’ OUT LOUD.
It would only get better from here. I must admit, it started out kind of iffy with the Esmil Rogers trade. Up to this point, he was the best guy that Chris Antonetti had traded for. But something changed. I’m not sure what, and I don’t know if there was some unspoken organization path taken to act relatively handcuffed during the Eric Wedge (Joel Skinner) and Acta (Sandy Alomar) regimes because neither guy had the jewelry to entice and push the Dolans to be a bit more loose with their checkbook, but I can’t rule it out.
Thank you, FOX TV money!
Hello, Mr. Bauer. Hello (and possibly goodbye) to Mr. Stubbs. Hello, Mr. Swisher. Hello, Mr. Myers. Hello, Mr. Michael “I’m-Faster-Than-Jason” Bourn(e). Hello, Mr. Giambi (2013’s Great Clubhouse Guy. “GCG” for short). And Dice-K, gotta prove yourself first. But if it’s any consolation, I was daydreaming about you being second in rotation behind CC. With your mythical gyroball. It never happened for you, but if Tito’s willing to take you on again, we might as well give you a shot. Remember, these are the Indians; still in some way, a reclamation project’s haven.
And now Spring Training is upon us, where the Tribe has gone from empathy all the way to raging excitement in a virtual blink of an eye. The buzz that I used to know so well, is slowly creeping back to me. I would have lived or died with this team from April to September as it is. But now, with this renewed sense to compete, April 2nd in Toronto cannot get here fast enough.
(Indians and Blue Jays. Who would’ve thought these two teams would have been of any real (inter)national interest last fall?)
It used to be that all I had these days was memories. Memories that, honestly, begat jealousy. But now, after a long period of wondering just what “the plan” was, it feels good to be an Indians fan; having freedom to believe that a Wild Card berth is in reach. And it isn’t so crazy to suggest out loud.
So now, as my caffeine crash starts to set in, I do so with still a million thoughts in my mind: Various lineups, mostly. And if we can get Masterson and Jimenez straightened out…but that’s a horror story for another day, night, ungodly hour.
Yeah, I remember that these are the Indians. Part of me still feels and fears the worst. But they can’t be taken for granted now..
Don’t go to sleep…