On To The Series!

What a year this has been for the Cleveland Indians — and for that matter for Cleveland, period.  After seeing the Cavs end a 52-year drought without a sports championship and shatter every jinx in doing so, and then hosting the Republican Convention without a hitch, the Best Location in the Nation now sees the astonishing Indians hoist the American League pennant and move on to the World Series.

bn-qj049_1019in_gr_20161019190617Well, why not?  In a year when the Indians have overcome injuries to key players that produced a decimated starting pitching staff — and that saw the Tribe experience the first blood-soaked drone injury in recorded MLB history — why wouldn’t you expect, Ryan Merritt, a rookie who has thrown all of 11 innings in the big leagues, and who was predicted to be “shaking in his boots” by a Toronto player, to go out and pitch lights out, like a grizzled veteran?  And why wouldn’t you expect the offense to produce just enough runs to get the game into the fifth inning with a lead?  And why wouldn’t you expect the Indians’ duo of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen to once again shut down the Toronto Blue Jays’ powerful lineup and close out another nail-biting win?

Consider the results of AL championship series.  Toronto came in after having battered Texas pitching and romped to a three-game sweep over the Rangers.  The Tribe pitching staff sucked it up and held the Blue Jays scoreless twice — in the opener and the clinching game — and gave up one run, two runs, and five runs in the other three games.  For the math-challenged among us, that’s eight runs in five games.  Miller’s ERA during the series was 0.00.  Allen’s ERA was 0.00.  And the Indians bullpen had one game where it pitched 8 1/3 innings to secure the victory.  It’s got to be one of the most amazing pitching performances in any baseball series in history.  And, it’s got to be one of the most amazing managerial performances in baseball history, too.  Would anyone but Terry Francona have kept his cool, kept his battered team focused, and used his bullpen so deftly?  And, by the way, wasn’t the trade for Andrew Miller the best trade in Cleveland Indians history, without any conceivable argument?

So now the Tribe moves on, with the AL pennant in hand, to face either the Cubs or the Dodgers.  This year, in Cleveland, anything is possible.  I’ll be looking forward to the World Series, and I’ll be thinking one thing:

There are no jinxes!

Wheeling And Dealing

As Russell, Kish, UJ, and I enjoyed watching the Indians take two games from the Oakland Athletics on Saturday and Sunday — and look pretty darned good in the process — the Tribe’s front office was busy, too.  With the major league trade deadline nearing, management was hoping to make some deals to fill a few holes on the roster.

IMG_2477The Indians pulled off a key trade with the Yankees, sending some of their stable of minor league prospects to New York in exchange for prized reliever Andrew Miller.  Miller, a lefty, is a strikeout specialist who will give Tribe manager Terry Francona better options in the bullpen.  (And, of particular importance in the modern world of baseball economics, Miller has a favorable contract, too.)  The Tribe also tried to acquire catcher Jonathan Lucroy from Milwaukee, in exchange for still more prospects, but Lucroy vetoed the deal, invoking no-trade rights he’s got in his contract.

As we drove back from yesterday’s 8-0 shellacking of the As, UJ and I listened to Cleveland sports talk radio.  Some callers bemoaned the Indians’ decision to deal some of their top prospects, but others recognized reality:  in professional baseball, if the stars align and you find yourself in a position to make a legitimate run for a pennant, you’ve got to make the moves that maximize your chances for success, now.  You can’t make long-term plans because injuries and contracts and free agency just make that impossible.  Instead, it’s all about striking while the iron is hot and hoping that you put the pieces together that allow you to bring home a championship.  (And, while nobody wants to give away prospects, experienced fans know that guys who look like lock-cinch phenoms at the A and AA levels often don’t pan out, anyway.)

This year the Indians have fine starting pitching, their defense is greatly improved, and their offense is far more productive than most people expected.  And while they’ve got some holes, at catcher and third base, they’ve got a legitimate shot at the playoffs — and one you make the playoffs, who knows?  I’m glad to see that the Tribe’s front office is wheeling and dealing to try to maximize the Indian’s chances to make a successful run this year.  The final trade deadline comes today, at 4 p.m.  Don’t be surprised if the Indians make another swap before then.