Why aren’t the Indians still playing, again?
A full week has passed, but it still doesn’t feel right.
Why aren’t the Indians still playing?
It doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t seem correct. Someone, somewhere made a mistake.
But then you think about it. And then the frustrating reality hits.
It is fair.
It is right.
Everyone knows the playoff rules. Win three of five and move on. Lose three straight after building a lead, and it’s over.
As hard as it is to watch the Yankees in the American League Championship Series — and there are few things in sports that I disdain more than navy pinstripes — New York deserves to be playing right now.
The Indians don’t.
Seven errors in the last two games of the season?
Practically no offensive production from the Indians’ two best hitters, Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor?
Corey Kluber with two of his worst starts, both in the playoffs?
Honestly, the Indians were lucky the division series even went five games.
And now, the season is over.
That’s depressing for lots of reasons. The better the regular season — the Indians won 102 games — the more bitter the end. That’s just how it works. In 2013, everyone was so impressed the Tribe won its last 10 games to get into the wild-card playoff, few seemed to mind when it lost the play-in game.
Last year, the Indians lost two starting pitchers before the postseason, didn’t get so much as a playoff at-bat from star outfielder Michael Brantley, and still advanced to Game 7 of the World Series.
If you’re going to painfully lose the Fall Classic — or, in the Indians’ case — blow a 3-games-to-1 lead to the Cubs — it’s best to leave your fans bewildered as to how you arrived there in the first place.
And that’s where the real frustration comes from.
So many people said to me this year “this is like the Cavs.”
In 2015, the Cavaliers lost Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving to injuries, but based perhaps solely on the will of the greatest basketball player on the planet, got to Game 6 of the NBA Finals before losing.
In 2016, Love, Irving and LeBron James were all set to go. And the Cavaliers won their first NBA title.
Fast forward to October of this year.
Kluber was believed to be healthy. Trevor Bauer was pitching the best ball of his career, as was (a healthy) Carlos Carrasco.
And that offense. Ramirez emerged as a superstar. Lindor remains one of the game’s most dynamic players. And then the Indians went out and got 30-home run Jay Bruce from the Mets. Even an injury to starting centerfielder Bradley Zimmer wasn’t too much a cause for concern. Austin Jackson was having a great season and manager Terry Francona had convinced himself — and, by proxy, every Indians fan — that second baseman Jason Kipnis could play center.
Add in the Indians’ ridiculous bullpen, with Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen, and it was all set up.
That little 22-game winning streak helped, too. This was going to be the year.
So why was I watching the Astros and Yankees Tuesday night?
So many reasons. But that’s baseball.
It’s why I was down after the World Series last year. Baseball isn’t like basketball. In basketball, the Eastern Conference has belonged – for the better part of the last decade — to whichever team had LeBron.
Baseball isn’t like that. In basketball, the best players and best teams usually rule the postseason.
In baseball, all it takes is a little bit of luck and above-normal performances.
The Indians lived by this reality in 2016.
They died by it last week.
The Indians should be a contender in 2018. Most of the guys are coming back, even if some of them (Kipnis) don’t have positions.
But that’s all the Indians can hope to be:
Hope to have a great season, and hope it all falls right in October.
This was the greatest Indians team I had ever seen. And that’s probably why this ending irritates me so much.
It doesn’t feel right. But endings like this rarely do.