Prior to the season, I picked the Indians to win 82 games this year. Since they only won 68 last year, I figured that a 14-game turnaround was pretty respectable, especially when you weren’t sure what to expect from the pitching staff. Since the Indians enter tonight’s game with 81 wins, they’re already at the cusp of my prediction with 13 games yet to play – they’re at least assured a .500 season. Ultimately, even though they’ve frustrated me immensely at times this season, I’m happy with the way they’ve performed. I expected that they’d manage to hang in contention until the All Star break or so, before Detroit took command of the division as they had in past years. I never considered the Indians would be in contention for the Wild Card – not with an AL East that contained the Rays, Orioles and Blue Jays (I wasn’t even thinking about the Red Sox and Yankees as much, and didn’t realize the Blue Jays would be so disappointing). I also didn’t realize the Angels would struggle so much this season, and thought the AL West would have three legitimate contenders in the Athletics, Rangers, and Angels. With this plethora of good teams, I figured the Tribe’s only road to the playoffs was through the Central division. I never would have guessed that midway through September they’d be just a half game out of both wild card spots.
This is very thrilling – even if they’re not able to snag one of the wild card spots, the Indians gave us meaningful September baseball for the first time in six years. When I think about September 2012, and how despondent I was over the team and its future, it’s kind of amazing to see the turnaround. Obviously good things can happen when you go on an offseason shopping spree, but those don’t always guarantee success. The Blue Jays won’t even finish at .500 this season, and it’s very likely that the Angels won’t either (they currently sit five games below .500). The Indians, who have had some major slumps and period of bad baseball this year, are still right on the edge of the wild card playoff game. They’re still only five games behind the Tigers going into tonight; just imagine if they would have even gone 7-12 instead of 4-15? It’s pretty amazing that you went 4-15 against the top team in your division, yet are just five games back.
I’m still not even sure how to process all of this. This team has so many ups and downs, I go from giddy excitement to an extreme desire to not get my hopes up too much. The Indians have broken my heart so many times over the years that I’m still afraid to trust them. What’s so confusing about this is that I’ll find myself thinking “with this weak schedule, my gosh…they could really pull this off!” immediately followed by “there are so many other good teams right there with them, how can they pull this off?” I live in constant fear of somehow jinxing them, since it seems like every time I compliment them this season they do something terrible to let my high hopes seem foolish. Yesterday, my dad paid our playoff ticket strip deposit, something I’ve been terrified to do. I had tickets to a non-existent ALDS in 2005, and after the Indians collapsed and did not make the playoffs, the unused tickets sat on my dining room table for about six months. I never had the heart to throw them out, my husband finally disposed of them when I wasn’t home. If I were to go down to my basement and switch on my old computer, I’d find a PDF of unused 2007 World Series tickets still on my desktop. It was six years ago, and I never had the heart to delete them. I was afraid the 2013 deposit would serve as a curse, and that I could have a new set of unused tickets sitting on my dining room table for the next six months.
Sometimes though, you just have to take a leap of faith. Maybe they won’t make the playoffs, or perhaps they’ll make it, yet lose an out-of-town wild card game. Sometimes you never know – maybe the Indians can make the playoffs and survive long enough to play a few games in Cleveland. I hate to see baseball end each September, so I’ve just taken the attitude that I want to see it last for as long as humanly possible. Heck, if they do make it, I’ll probably have to select a vital organ to sell in order to pay for my share of the playoff tickets. It speaks to my insanity as an Indians fan that I find myself thinking “that would be a good problem to have.”