IBI Power Poll: Winning the World Series?...
Winning the World Series is what it's all about, right?
Winning the World Series.
That one statement makes any Cleveland Indians’ salivate. If you talk to your grandparents, they’ll likely recall the 1948 Tribe of their youth with fond memories. If you talk to your parents, and they don’t remember ’48 or weren’t born yet, they’ll talk of the horrible 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. They’ll speak of the 90’s with hesitant reverence, but ultimately the frustration that comes from not quite getting it done. If you talk to the younger generation of fans, they’ll speak of the 90’s as the standard bearer, and long for the Indians to reach that pinnacle again, only take that last step.
It’s a phrase that many of us have placed high on our list of things to see, as though it were an accomplishment equal to being successful at your job, as a husband/wife and father/mother, or as a friend. And while to some, what I just said sounds just silly. To most that read this, you’ll find yourself nodding your head in agreement.
Winning the World Series would change our lives.
Now, I could get into how irreverent baseball should be. It’s only a game. Most of us don’t know these guys any more than we know the guy or gal that we handed our money to at the grocery store within the past week. In fact, we know them less. They make millions, while we don’t, and have lives that we don’t, which is just how it works with people we don’t know.
But when they button up that White, Red and Navy Blue (and yes, unfortunately, sometimes cream) Cleveland jersey, it all changes.
We know them. They are our best friends. We understand why they hit the way they do, and why the all the sudden stop fielding with brilliance. We use stats to dictate our conversation, or we decide that we clearly have the eye of a scout, pointing to a faster looking swing speed, or even a split-second hesitation that we clearly didn’t see the day before.
We talk about eras and generations and an unfortunate streak of humility that has been with this team for the past 65-years, when we last won the World Series.
Baseball is a complicated game. It always has been. When I grew up, we measured it by the players that hit .300, drove in a bunch of runs, and hit a ton of home runs; or on Wins and Losses and ERA and strikeouts. Why? Because there really weren’t many players that did all of the main offensive statistics with any regularity, and to be honest, there weren’t many that did one of each stat all that well either. In Cleveland, those stats were incredibly important during my early years because we didn’t have a chance to win the World Series.
Who am I kidding, the Tribe rarely had a player that excelled in any of the key “old-school” statistics.
In the 90’s, home runs became common place because of all the enhancements, and the metrics-boom really began to take off. While Metrics had been around since the 60’s, there really wasn’t the technology to make the uber-effective until the 90’s. Some managers tinkered with them in the 80’s (I believe Davey Johnson did), the new approach didn’t take hold until the 90’s were well on their way.
More stats poured into a game, and many now utilize numbers that are excessively relevant in many ways.
What’s my point?
Old school measures…new school measures…the point of any measure is to figure out a way to win the World Series.
While many argue the rights and wrongs of players stats and how good they’ll be, and many argue about who to acquire and not acquire and who to play and who not to play, the only right in baseball is the team that wins it all.
Winning the World Series makes all the numbers meaningless, and often don’t fit the definitions anyone places on them to begin with.
I love this game of baseball, and often ask myself the question, as I’m sure many of you do as well, Will the Cleveland Indians win the World Series before I die?
It seemed an easy question in 1994. I was only 23-years old, and the Indians seemingly had the core of a team that would surely win.
They almost did…twice.
When Jim Thome left after the 2002 season, my hopes were dashed. The Jacobs/Hart era was over, and the last slugger from one of the greatest eras of Indians’ baseball was gone.
Now, 20 years after that 1994 season, in the 20th season at Jacob’s Progressive Field, the Indians still haven’t won the big game. Asking the question as a 42-year old has different ramifications. Forever doesn’t quite seem like forever, and winning the World Series seems less-than-possible in an era that forces a team like the Indians to hit on everything to even have a chance. I combine that with a conversation I had with my Grandfather-in-Law in 1996. He said, “There was nothing like being in Cleveland back in ‘1948. But they are going to win a World Series again before too long, and I’m going to get to see it.”
When he died two years later, I left my Indians’ charm in his casket and thought, for the first time, “I may not get to see this happen.”
2012 was really a microcosm of all of this angst. The team started off playing okay under Manny Acta, and it dampened my good sense. I knew the team had no depth. I knew the team had no chance. I knew the team had Aaron “freaking” Cunningham (I do miss him), but I kept thinking “World Series.” It makes no sense…none at all. My brain knew it wasn’t going to happen, but my heart got in the way.
In reality in 2012, the Cleveland Indians had lost their way. It’s almost humorous to think about how bad that team really was. The Indians finished the month of September with a 12-15 record for the month, and that was a massive improvement over their month of August, in which they had gone 5-24. I made a pretty solid case that it was the worst month of Indians baseball…ever, and while it may not have been the very worst month, it was certainly in the conversation.
I’m a guy that wants a World Series. This is a fan base that wants a World Series perhaps more than any other in the baseball right now (I didn’t say town, I said fan base, because the city of Cleveland ignores the Indians, for the most part). The ramifications of trying to do that after having arguably the worst collapse in franchise history--to a fan’s psyche--even in Cleveland, are fairly large.
It was ugly…and then…it wasn’t.
The 2012-2013 hot stove season changed everything. The Indians and Chris Antonetti hired Terry Francona, who was one of the top two or three managers in the game of baseball. The then made shrewd trades that brought them several key components to the 2013 team and beyond. They were also able to bring in free agents that changed the dynamics of the locker room, even if they didn’t necessarily improve the team on the field. The team changed, and more importantly, the culture in the clubhouse changed. The new mixed with the old, and out of that, Francona and the Indians were able to brew a winner.
It was a monumental change for a franchise that had been languishing in lower-level mediocrity since 2007, and fell into an abyss in 2012.
This season, the optimism is back. The culture continues to change for the Tribe thanks to a shrewd and smart captain, and a solid group of talent. The once hopeless minor leagues now has some potential help, and the team seems to be heading in the right direction. While fans continue to ‘Wait for Next Year,’ there is a solid foundation being put in place that this team could actually ‘Win This Year.”
That brings me to this week’s Power Poll, that’s truly different than any other Power Poll that I’ve ever done, and it’s a three-parter.
- Will the Cleveland Indians win the World Series in 2014?
- Will the Cleveland Indians win the World Series within the next three seasons?
- Will the Cleveland Indians win the World Series before I die (when I say “I,” I clearly mean you, the reader…you are asking the question to yourselves)
Obviously, there are many ways this poll can turn out. If you answer yes to the first question, the rest are easy. If you answer no to the last, then the first two are easy. Of course, what about the Indians is easy?
There are many fans outside of Cleveland that truly believe we are fans because we love the misery. That’s just not the case, at least for me. For me…it’s the quest for that elusive title. Can Terry Francona work another decade-long miracle, or has he met his match in Cleveland?
Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have always avoided the World Series or best mentality.....I want to win one, but also consider seasons like last year or even years like 1986 as successful and fun.
However, that doesn't mean it's not possible, so I continue to root against all odds, support with all my heart, and hope, as I have for over 40 years, that the Tribe will one day in the not too distant future win a World Series. Perhaps even this year. May it be so!
Roger...my Dad is 73, and he vaguely remembers '48. Jeez Roger...64 almost seems cruel to be an Indians' fan...lol...
Let's hope we all get to see it soon. They aren't far...but so far...