A Baseball Team

This started as a piece of writing about Chief Wahoo and the situation unfolding right now with the Cleveland Indians removing it as one of their on-field logos. 

I could sit here and talk about it ad-nauseam like anyone else has, defending my stance, arguing with the wind. On the surface, yeah, it bothers me that people have a problem with this. Bluntly, I think if it is preventing you from being a fan of this baseball team, you should just not be a fan of this baseball team. Of course, it's not as cut and dry as that though. It can never be with this team or this city. It's one of the things I've learned in 10 years.

I tried to keep light and make some tasteful jokes Monday on Twitter as a way of easing my angst towards people who feel like this is the end of the world for their baseball team. To deter me from making a snarky comment towards those who feel like celebrating or even taking this weird indifferent approach along the lines of "Whatever, just don't give us Block C".

I don't think that's what any of this is about. I don't think any of this logo business is about any of us. I think we need to stop making it about us. Because if you are arguing for the logo, you are making it about what you want. If you are arguing about something else other than the Block C, it is again what you want. This isn't what you want. You support the team, just like me, but this isn't about any of us. Remember that.

Another version of what I was writing went into this depressing, totally non-baseball related thought stream on how the world we live in today is a really depressing and sometimes scary one because of the things that seem to be happening on an almost daily basis. I won't go down that road. That's not what this needs to be about, as much as I want to try and make it be. As much as it does relate.

A reminder about the logo, and where I'll end it. It isn't about us. You or me, or your fandom or how or why you should be rooting for the Cleveland Indians. So stop thinking that it is. I'm not going to lecture. You either have the sense to see the humanity in the decision and are grown-up enough to understand why the franchise is doing this. Or you aren't. End of that story.

So, with that out of the way, why am I still writing?

Probably because I haven't for awhile and it's with good reason.

I don't have anything that I feel like writing about in regards to the Cleveland Indians. And it relates to this logo situation in a way. Let me explain.

I really started becoming a fan in the early 2000's. I probably have told this story at one point or another, but for me, my true attachment to this team started when my dad and I would spend countless losing efforts in our right field seats. He was a partial season ticket holder and we did this for years, until we didn't. I went to college, he moved to Pittsburgh, we couldn't do that anymore, but I was still a fan, if not even more so. 

I started this blog in 2008. The first official public post was on March 19, 2008. Almost 10 years ago. It was terrible. I was a freshman in college. As a senior in high school I maintained writing about the Indians on Sporting News in their fan blog section. Then I decided I wanted to try and do this myself. 

I've moved several times, had life-changing events, graduated college, graduated again with my master's, changed my dream job, got a full-time job, had other numerous life events. One thing that I seemingly always had though was this space. I've written for other websites, even got paid to do it for awhile. It helped support me through grad school even.

I've always written here for free and it's always been about the Indians. There were times I became burnt out. There were times where I thought I could make a living off this. There were times where I thought I would be able to do it at the level I was doing it while also going through school/work/whatnot. There was a time where I thought this was my stepping-stone to covering the team in some capacity as a career. There was a time I decided that I wanted this to be fun and enjoy it so I would continue to do it the way I wanted to do it. There were numerous times I changed what I did because I felt like it. 2015 and 2016 probably was some of the most fun years I had writing about the Indians because it was different and I didn't have any strings attached to anything or no self-put pressure about posting something. And I made jokes, which I like to do on occasion.

And then I got burnt out again. Maybe it was the World Series burnout. I don't know.

Last year wasn't a fun year for me, fan-wise, personally, and really just in general. Of course this is about the Indians, so I don't need to detail the personal stuff, but shoot, everything revolving or relating to the Indians just fit into everything else in my life, rather perfectly. But I'd write another novel in addition to this, so we'll stick to the Tribe. What you are about to read is 100% candid honesty and touches a wide range of things, but try and stick with me.

I thought 2016 and the World Series was going to bring things full-circle as I had decided to become a season ticket holder. Because I'm not one for a TL/DR, I decided that I wanted to show my support for the team by being a committed season ticket holder. I had the finances, I also wanted to lock my games in and hopefully get the best price possible for them. Buy early, save money, right? That's what I've been told.

So I put my deposit down in the run-up to the playoffs. Nothing was better calling my dad the minute after the Indians clinched against Toronto to ask him if he wanted to go to Game One of the World Series. And I was able to do that because I became a season ticket holder. It was great. Regardless of the outcome at the end of the World Series, that's a memory we'll always have and it was a great one.

What followed was eternally frustrating. No, not the World Series, I think we're all still salty about that, but my 2017 was the least enjoyable year of being a Cleveland Indians fan, and that includes all those terrible years of rebuilding. I didn't enjoy going to games. The outcomes to them were rather meaningless. It was a few things. Because of the boom in season tickets and demand for the Indians, the Indians changed some things. Or at least, were taken aback and had to adjust. Flex plans in the way that I was told would be offered by my ticket rep were changing. You could only get two different tickets, priced well above what I was expecting when I put my deposit down. The deposit I put down was supposed to cover most of what I would end up paying, if not all. I'm one person, buying one ticket for about 20 games.

I'm a single guy and if I do go to a game with people, I'm buying my own ticket. Maybe I'd buy two for a few games, which I could do with single game pre-sale access, but largely, my plan was revolving around one ticket and it was going to be the cheapest ticket possible because I'm not sitting in a seat.

Whoops, nope. The average per ticket went up because of the section I was confined to. I'm not poor, so I can afford it, but I'm also not rich, and I also felt a little screwed over. I couldn't do a Friday/Sunday or another pre-determined day of the week plan because I needed the flexibility of picking my games and I'd mostly do Friday/Saturday's anyway. 

What that lead to was me paying more than double what I was expecting to for season tickets and then having the constant struggle of hoping the games that I did have to sell would at least net me the price that I paid for a particular ticket. The constant aggravation of having to check Stub Hub to see if prices were dropping and if I'd have to lower my ticket so that I could at least salvage some of my money back was, just that, an aggravation.

Want to add to it? I've always championed for this organization. I've defending the front office and the Dolan's for a long time. I think they're great. I think they truly do care about trying to win but are also trying to be smart about it. And at the end of the day, they are also running a business, so it makes more sense for them to also try and be profitable, duh. So I'm the last one to take a bite out of them in that regard.

But in terms of a customer service experience and just an overall treatment of Season Ticket Holders? I was unsatisfied and disappointed. Events like the Season Ticket Holder meet and greet were poorly organized. I organize and coordinate events for a living, but even someone who doesn't have an eye for that stuff could tell however they were doing things could be done better.

Quote-unquote perks as they advertised them were lackluster and pretty insignificant. I just truly didn't feel valued for showing my season-long commitment to this team. And when I took the time to fill out the survey asking me about all of this, I doubt it was read and I doubt anyone took the time to care about what I actually had to say. Not that I need to be heard, but at least acknowledge that things aren't right and make an attempt to fix them.

And then at the games? Oh lord, at the games. I'm glad the Indians brought more fan support in by being successful, but at what cost? The amount of people in the concourse for a Dollar Dog Night was suffocating. I can't walk through it without someone plodding along in front of me. Is this completely insane? Of course it is, but I'm used to scooting through that stadium at my own pace. The influx has brought in a massive amount of people who can't navigate around the ballpark.

Don't even get me started about some of the people I had to watch the game by. People shouting in your ear towards the opposing team with nonsensical things that are irrelevant or even just not true about the player. Like, there's tasteful and clever heckling and then there's being an annoying jerk and 90% of the interactions I witnessed were people being annoying jerks. 

I've also become rather consumed with what other people are saying online. Trust me, I unfollow if I'm done with what you are saying, but it almost becomes a cool thing to complain about the people complaining. Why can't I have a negative opinion about how Tito fills out his lineup card? It's my opinion. So what if I don't agree with a decision or like a particular player? Why am I not allowed to complain about it? Sure, it's kind of hypocritical that I'm complaining about the people that are complaining about me complaining, but at some point, am I not right?

Guess what, I think Bryan Shaw sucks, so leave it alone, let me talk about how much I think he sucks. 

So that's where I am. A lot of it is brought on by myself and only myself, and I can own that. Some of it isn't and for that I need to find a strategy to deal with it. Complaining just falls in line with the crowd of Wahoo-enthusiasts. 

And it brings me to that point. Why am I even a fan of this team if there's just been so much displeasure involved in it lately. From all that to now the toxic nature of fans hating on other fans because of a decision on the logo.

Why are we all here? What's the point? So yeah, this started out as something about the logo but then it goes down the root of it all. This, and all my other current displeasure are not significant. None of these things are reasons that we have for being fans, right? We like this team for the product on the field, do we not? A logo, colors, the ballpark, the way some fans act, customer service, even team name or who actually is on the team really aren't the reasons that we are all here, are they? I'm just as guilty complaining about customer service as someone complaining about removing a logo. The thing is though, I'm not going to cry and take my ball home because I'm an irrational human being.

And it's occurring to me, I just need to go back to being a fan the way I know how. I need to go back to enjoying the team for what I enjoy them for and put all that noise aside. I can try, maybe it won't work. Maybe it won't. Who knows.

I think back to the reason that I fell in love with this team and coupled with my love for baseball, that is why I am here and why I've continued to root and support the Cleveland Indians baseball franchise. Going to games with my dad, watching a team grow on the field. I was attracted to the on the field product and seeing something start from the dumpster fire that was a franchise fielding teams made up of Ricky Gutierrez, Josh Bard, and Chad Durbin (woof woof woof), to being a contender. A true built from the bottom up effort. Sure it took a while, but I was there from the start and I'll be damned if I'm not going to continue to enjoy the ride.

I'm going to shift my attitude. That whole change your attitude, change your outlook thing, right? I'm not going to be a season ticket holder next year. I'm going to go back to just going to the games when I please and feel like it. I'm going to try and get back to just putting pen to paper (finger to key, shut up, whatever) when the mood strikes. I'm going to just do my best to tune out people at games that bother me. Or throw them over the railing. Kidding, I'm not going to throw anyone over a railing.

Unless they say something about Michael Martinez, then all bets are off.

I'm going to unfollow the crap on Twitter that ticks me off. I'm still going to see it of course, but I'll do my best to avoid it. I stopped reading Facebook comments years ago when I stopped using Facebook. Hey, don't read the comments.

Will I still be a snarky son of a bitch to people who have it coming? Don't worry, Jensen Lewis isn't getting unfollowed, that's not a habit I can break anytime soon. I know my problems and can live with them properly.

But I'm done losing my way. This is largely a post about me, so it's my way of realizing that this team isn't about me. This team isn't about you. This baseball franchise isn't about a logo changing and your problem with it. This team is about itself, trying to win the flippin' World Series, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let that ultimate end-game enjoyment be spoiled by a drawing or Bryan Shaw mood swings. It's time to enjoy baseball again.

A logo identifies a team. It doesn't define it. This team is defined by other things. You can change your identity, but it's damn hard to change how you are defined, so best get over it and enjoy the ride with me, or just, jump off. The train is moving slow enough right now where you may be able to catch yourself running, or at least tumble around at a speed that won't break your neck.

And for the love of all that is blessed, can we please see them sign another relief pitcher before March?!

(P.S. I'm sorry Carlos is in that picture)


The One Problem with this Cleveland Indians Team

You look at the team as it stands, in terms of the talent and potential, and I think all year it has been a consensus, no matter how much they've struggled or looked a little lost, the Cleveland Indians are probably the best team in the division.

They may even be the best team in the American League, coasting until they can get to the parts of the season that matter. You look at the invaluable experience of going to the World Series, despite the injuries and the odds, getting back those injured players, adding one of the more potent bats available in free agency, and still having the core group that lead the team last year and this was supposed to be easy, right?

Look, this team is good. I think maybe, and this is probably a bad thing, they know that they are good. So they're coasting a bit and turning it on at certain points. And when they turn it on, look how incredibly dominant they've been. They know if they just get to that point where the games matter for real, their pitching is going to give them a chance and their offense can get the job done.

Is this intentional? No, probably not. It's just a matter of assumption that things are going to go there way. It's not "hey we don't care until it matters" type of a thing I'm sure, it's just complacency. It happens to the best of us, yeah?

That's not really why I'm going to sit around here and complain about the fact that this team isn't doing what it's supposed to do. The division is garbage, and even though they should be running away with it, they'll likely win it (we've still go two months to go, yo) and my only hope with that is that they'll win it relatively healthy and go into the post-season with their best foot forward.

The one problem though with this Indians team that could potentially derail them is something that I think needs to be talked about a little more. In the grand scheme of things, it's hard to provide physical and tangible evidence that it is something that has cost them games. You can probably run some analytics related to certain aspects of what this problem is and come up with some real solid evidence. In fact, some people smarter than me probably have and if I've ever come across it, I've probably shared it with people because that knowledge is good.

The problem with this team is Terry Francona.

You may want to get your pitch forks out at me for this, and you've probably heard it from me before, but Terry Francona is a problem. Does that mean he needs to get fired? No. Does that mean I think he's the worst option this team has? No. This isn't click bait, I have nothing to gain and no agenda. I don't dislike Tito, nor do I want him ousted. I think Tito can be a great asset as a manger and honestly, you can absolutely 100% do far far worse, especially when you look at the AL Central. In fact, I'd take Tito over every other manager in the Central, any day. This isn't "he's a problem and he has to go." We could have to deal with Paul Molitor.

This is more or less, Tito Francona is a problem and the Indians should really consider addressing it. Or figuring out how to cope with the situation before it turns bad.

The core of the problem is Francona because he's the center of the flow chart if you will.

I think about some comments that I've sometimes heard regarding his time in Boston from Indians fans, or even just baseball fans in general. The idea of "how could Boston get rid of him?" seemingly rings in the ears of people. I get it, he won some rings, he's a beloved guy among lots of players, it's not like Boston was a complete dumpster fire, the idea of letting a manager with that resume go and was part of so much with that franchise especially can be a little strange.

But I get it. After a few years of Francona being in Cleveland, I can see it and understand how things went sour there. Whether there was a power-struggle or what have you, I understand why Terry Francona is managing Cleveland right now and not still lounging it up in Boston where he made history.

Francona is a players manager, yeah? Let's look at that and all the other big draws you have in hiring him.

He commands respect. He has that resume, so it's kind of automatic, this guy knows what he's doing, I trust him to make decisions and the word of others give others a trust that they should have in him. It makes sense.

He brings credibility. It's the same deal. He gets Nick Swisher to sign, perhaps Edwin Encarnacion, other than the whole World Series thing and getting a decent contract, is a little more likely to sign with a club that has a manager who is respected. He brings credibility in that regard and I get it and understand it. There's an idea of "I want to play for him."

And guess where I'm going with this?

Yep, that's the problem. That all sounds good, how can it be a problem?

Simple. After awhile, it goes from being an advantage, especially with a younger clubhouse looking for an identity, and really an unset set of rules and ways, to being a disadvantage if it isn't controlled. And I'd like to maintain right here and now that what is occurring has the potential to get out of hand.

Let's start with the primary thing that really prompted me to put words down for the first time in months in regards to the Indians.

Jason Kipnis comes back from an injury and lengthy DL stint to return to the same spot in the lineup that he was in prior to the injury. Let's not even look at the fact that him in that spot isn't really optimized correctly, let's look at the idea that he is coming in pretty cold off his rehab starts. Let's look at the fact that among other players who have returned from stints, Terry Francona has not always put them right in the same spot they previously had.

I'm almost sure this isn't an "injury can't cause you to lose your job" sort of thing, because I feel like that idea is a thing of the past.

What I'm pretty sure it is is the idea that Jason Kipnis has a bit of clout that is hard to combat. I'm not going to pretend to know about Kipnis or the clubhouse, but I sort of surmise that he is looked upon as a bit of a leader. I think we can also look back to some of the reports that Francona went to both Kipnis and Brantley earlier in the year for input on the lineup.

Yeah, that, that's um...pretty easy to use as evidence here. Why is the manager going to his players for input in the lineup? Why is he entrusting in someone else for something he's getting judged for?

Because he's a player's manager?

There lies the problem with that and when you start losing that advantage of having a player's manager. All of a sudden, the manager isn't the manager. He isn't making the best decision possible with the best info at hand with all the logic behind it. He's getting one, two, or three other opinions that are potentially jaded to help inform him to make a decision.

Terry Francona is now surrendering some power. By being a player's manager, he's now letting some of his more seasoned players who are considered leaders in the clubhouse have some say in the decision making process. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but it can be. And it can create problems. And it can create this idea that some players have a say in what's happening and others don't and that can really piss some people off.

Are you starting to see how things went south up north in Boston? Starting to kind of "get it" as to how something like that is maybe possible?

I hope so. Am I saying the Indians are headed down that road?

Look, there was this idea that we heard from the very start that Francona came here for the relationships. And it's no secret that the whole Antonetti-Shapiro-Francona trio was ready to work together because they wanted to. A super-team if you will.

But it also seems pretty evident that the decisions made on the field don't always seem to fit how they were probably intended to be made based off the decisions that were made in the front office. And that has kind of taken more and more of a shape year after year. I don't know if it's a power-struggle, but do you really believe that everything that Tito has done and some of the decisions he's made are 100% backed by Antonetti and Chernoff?

I doubt you could go to a franchise and find that to be the case, but year after year, it keeps happening and can you start to see even a little more as to how things went bad up there? It CAN be enough to strain a relationship, even one that was initially formed with the idea of working together. In fact, it can lead to even more strain considering that was how the partnership was formed. The idea of working together.

Look, there'a a myriad of other things that I would put on the outer parts of the flow chart. But this is the centralized part of the problem. If it doesn't get addressed, it could cause some problems. I mean, up until this point, like whatever right? This team went to the World Series and very well should have won it. As noted earlier, they're probably cruising to the point where they need to shift into gear to finish the race. So, until there's a problem, why worry?

Well, because I'm tired of seeing Jason Kipnis hit in a non-optimal part of the lineup, ESPECIALLY coming off an injury, because he has some clout in the clubhouse. Or even the idea that moving him could cause a disturbance. It's not what's BEST for the team and it defies logical reasoning. It doesn't best utilize your talent. It hinders it and it puts even Kipnis in a more unfavorable position to not only not succeed, but cause his team to fail.

Get ahead of the problem. A player's manager is fine, until it isn't fine and is a problem. It doesn't happen over night of course, but it can happen without really noticing it is happening. It's how a situation like the one that unfolded in Boston can happen and how it could cause some disturbances in Cleveland.


When Will We Be Finally Satisfied?

I sat in my car for what was the longest drive back from Cleveland in my entire life.

This had nothing to do with bridge from Ohio City to downtown being closed (probably for the best) and me having to take an alternate route to get to the highway. And yes, I've had longer drives from downtown to wherever I was going distance and time wise, but you know exactly what I mean.

It felt like an eternity driving back home. It felt like it took me forever to fall asleep even though I had been up since five in the morning and was straight up exhausted from driving back and forth to Cleveland the past few days.

I should have fallen asleep the minute I laid down. But there I was, staring up to the ceiling, feeling like everything is moving incredibly slow, yet my mind racing incredibly fast.

In these days after, I still don't know how I feel. The first song that came on the radio Wednesday night/Thursday morning after I switched off Tom Hamilton and the post-game show was a favorite band of mine, X Ambassadors and a song of theirs that is one of my favorites. I love "Unsteady" because it's one of their better slow-beat songs with a dope rhythm to it. I completely hated that that song was on right then and there, but it also felt like it was completely appropriate. 

Hold onto me right now friends, because I am, in fact, a little unsteady, and I'm not sure where this is going.


After the ALCS win, I sat there comfortably numb. I relayed my feelings of being completely overwhelmed by the situation, not knowing what to say first or how to feel about what was happening.

The day after, I now try and look back at the wild ride that culminated in one night, with not one moment sticking out more than any other, trying to feel and understand the emotions that I feel right now. 

You surely have left many situations in your life feeling satisfied, have you not? It could be something incredibly small or entirely large. Maybe you put a lot of work into studying for a test, worked really hard to do well and when you got your grade back, the results matched exactly what you expected them to based off your preparation. Maybe you put a lot of work into a project at work, hoping it would lead to a raise or a promotion and it did. Maybe you did something good for someone in need and they thanked you for your kindness. Maybe you ran a half marathon and just really wanted to eat your body weight in Swenson's burgers and when you did, you felt all was right. 

That last one was me, I'm sure you could tell.

Look, we get satisfactions from lots of things in life, big or small, inconsequential in the grand scheme of things or incredibly grandiose. We can get it from and for things that don't really matter or things that should take priority in our lives.

We can most definitely feel satisfied about sports. Yet, it's the hardest thing to feel satisfied about because there's always a next year, win or lose, a team always competes and you will always be there to cheer and put your emotions and feelings into your favorite team. After 108 years, Cubs fans can FINALLY feel satisfied about watching baseball and investing in a team. Most of us probably invest emotionally, whether you invest financially in different levels or physically or in other ways. But if you are a fan of a team, and I really mean, a fan that cares for the outcome for more than just 10 minutes after the game, you invest emotionally. That is damn near 100% of sports fans. It is an emotional investment. It comes at different levels, but it is one thing we relate to.

So, we get it right? 108 years. Lifetimes of emotional investment, young and old, unless you are a 115-year-old Cubs fan that can semi-remember. There's a few of those out there, right?

And now for us, as fans of the Cleveland Indians, emotional investments of our wide-age ranges. Some are around and can remember the last title in 1948. It will grow another year and perhaps, the emotionalism of what we had to go through will only give us a little more grief in the short term and built up our long-term anticipation of emotional relief.

When it actually happens, it will be so satisfying, right? Many of you are Cavaliers fans who got to celebrate a few short months ago. That was awesome, and that was great and the city of Cleveland got themselves a title, which they haven't had in quite some time.

But dare I say this, for all of us who don't happen to be Cavaliers fans, maybe this is short-sighted, but a World Series would mean just a little bit more because this baseball team has been around for a little bit longer. A franchise who was so close in the 90's at several points. A franchise that has gone with, what is now (let that sink in), the longest drought in it's sport without a championship. A franchise that sees it's ownership and front office pummeled over and over again in the modern day by people who don't understand the landscape and economics of baseball. A franchise that gets constantly overlooked in it's own town because they don't throw a brown leather ball and clank orange helmets every Sunday. A franchise that, for all purposes of how they are owned, ran, operated, and how they play, is Cleveland.

I've said this before, but the Cleveland Indians are a perfect embodiment of what the city of Cleveland claims to be. A blue-collar town that prides itself on "earned not given" taglines and working hard and others around it using it as a punchline or an afterthought. And yet, they're overlooked in their own city. They're miscast in a role that is perfect for them because the audience doesn't want them there.

This Cleveland Indians team, and even specifically in 2016, beyond all expectations is one that shattered any sort of frame of believably. They defiantly waved their swagger in the faces of doubters, kicked and pedaled as hard as they could through any sort of challenge or obstacle, and gave us a run to never forget because they played their absolute hearts out. I think many of the players understood that they were playing for more than themselves, even if a lot of those people distrusted them for some time.

It's hard to be satisfied with a losing outcome, but when you take a step back and look at everything your vacuum collected over the past month, you can't help but be satisfied on some level in regards to what was gathered a long the way. I certainly am to have been able to witness some of the things we did. I know that I'm still hungry and ready to tackle a few more Galley Boy's, but I'm pretty content with what I've already had. Maybe get me some potato teezers. Sorry, too many Akron references, but at least it's a shorter drive than Chicago.


The Chicago Cubs were supposed to win the World Series from the first moment the season started. They ran rampant over their division, one of which was impressive on many fronts, won over 100 games, and assembled an incredible squad of young superstars mixed in with proven winners. They're managed by a cerebral game tactician and the guy who assembled them has a proven track record of delivering incredible moments to historic franchises thanks to the moves he makes. I don't have to tell you that this team was the favorite and anything short of winning it all would be unexpected. You know all this and have been beaten over the head with it for the past few days. It's not an excuse as to why they lost, it's a reason to not be discouraged by the result. Look no further than Keith Olbermann summing it up pretty perfectly in regards to the Cubs. They were supposed to be there at the end and there's no shame for a team like the Indians to have lost to them, especially when they played hard and earned every bit of the position they were in.

And yet despite all of that about how the Cubs are more talented, more hungry, younger, stronger, deeper, and in a more advantageous position, there they sat, down 3-1 to a team decimated by injuries and ravaged by real circumstances that should have put them out in the first round if you played the game on paper (or newspaper). The Cubs were there, but the Indians shouldn't have been and they were the one's threatening to make history, 108 years and the stars aligning be damned.

Nobody said it better than Cody Allen. He hit it perfectly and I think about his words as I reflect back on my night watching the final game of the series. From the fact that they just got beat by a really good team to just wanting next year to start right now. That's where I am at and it's hard to sit here and not only believe that this run is finally over and we can't celebrate and that the opportunity to do so is a full year away, at the very least, because nothing is guaranteed, as we saw for a shining moment with the Cubs.

The opportunity to do this all again is far too draining to think about. This team poured their heart and soul into this run. When I talk about being satisfied, I think about how satisfying it would have been for this team to win the World Series. How I'm ready to take a 100-year nap after that and not have to worry about watching my team try and win it all.

Is it great that we get Michael Brantley and Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar and Yan Gomes all back and healthy for a run next year? Of course. Is it great that we still have years left of watching a guy like Francisco Lindor dazzle and amazes us? Of course. It is great that there's players like Jose Ramirez, Trevor Bauer, Cody Allen, and Carlos Santana  and that they will be key pieces to a 2017 team? Of course. Is it great that the Indians still have a few more years of the dangerous bullpen weapon that is Andrew Miller? Hell, yes. I'm certainly okay not having Clint Frazier anymore. Can we trade Bradley Zimmer for a right-handed cloning machine so we can get another one?

But it's so hard to duplicate success in baseball. You play a 162 game season to get to the point the Indians were able to get to: the postseason. And from there, there's a lot of things that have to go your way. We talked about it after the ALDS in what Terry Francona did to push the right buttons. You look at the runs the Royals made the past few years and things went their way a lot of times. The Indians had a lot of things roll their way to get them to Game 7 of the World Series.

It's hard to imagine, even though the Indians have a talented team, of strapping up and doing it again.

But then I look at the team that did beat them and how, as Keith Olbermann put it, talent prevailed.

Talent prevails. And talent will prevail with the Cleveland Indians because they have it in spades and can absolutely get back to the postseason. Of course, as you saw with the Cubs, talent can always get upended by hard-nosed baseball, great decisions, stellar pitching, and unique ways of accomplishing your goals. Things the Indians did to get to that position. That's what makes it scary. The fact that the Indians could have had done it the hard way, but just as could easily be in a situation to lose it the easy way too.

While I'm perfectly okay with the Indians having a stocked and reloaded team ready to go and get a World Series title next year, I can't help but have really wanted this one because it's so hard to be able to get that position in the first place, even when it should be easy like it was for the Cubs.


Jason Kipnis darting around third without even hesitating, the key reason for him scoring on a wild pitch as the second run. It was memorable and had the Indians been the winners, would go down as just as much of an iconic moment as Kris Bryant's smooth base running earlier in the game.

Rajai Davis, starting presumably because Tyler Naquin's defense inefficiency was not going to cost Tito another game. You knew he was taking defense seriously when he subbed out Coco Crisp late to avoid the possibility of him having to make a throw on a sac fly. Here's Rajai Davis, who would have probably been in the game at this point anyway, hitting no only the game-tying blast off a tired Aroldis Chapman, but bringing his team within one in extras.

Only to bring to the plate, quite possibly, one of the statistically worst hitters in major league history in Michael Martinez, with your season definitively on the line. Really?

Rain, improbably pouring down in extra innings of the seventh game of the World Series, causing a delay that would spur a locker room meeting by the opposing team.

Andrew Miller giving up a home run to David Ross in his last major league game. No, no, really?

Kipnis pulling a ball that very much seemed like it was gone, sending me to my knees in absolute euphoria, only to realize it had not come true. I didn't want to stand back up.

These are moments in time that you will never forget. Ones I won't forget. I mean, this WAS everything we love about baseball between two teams that you would have never thought would be here at the same time. How entertained are you as a baseball fan with no rooting interest? Other than your own team being in that position and coming out on top, was there anything greater to watch as a lover of baseball and sports? It's almost a shame that the Indians and Cubs fans had to go through that because that whole scenario is not even dreamable. Major League Baseball couldn't have tried to rig a more perfect scenario.

What perhaps is the most cruel thing about baseball is that it set up this scenario between the two hungriest franchises and said, hey, only one of you will eat tonight.

Moments that I watched and was glued to the screen for. I stood, surrounding by fellow Cleveland Indians hopefuls, hoping that this team would pull out the unthinkable and the unfathomable. To ride the emotional roller coaster of believing your team was going to win the World Series because they were up 3-1, to the doubt that is creeping into your mind because it's now 3-3 and, well, it would seem the advantages are shifting towards the Cubs direction.

To the doom of falling behind, to the hope of tying it up, to the despair of falling behind yet again. To being given the shot of life of seeing this team rise up and not quit, to give us one more shot at it all. To tying it up and making you believe. Making you feel that this could very well happen and that you could very well be running down the street celebrating one of the greatest moments a sports fan can have.

I don't have strong allegiances to any other team in sports now a days. My alma mater has won a National Championship in soccer and as a devout fan of the Akron Zips and someone who went to games and was emotionally invested in that squad that won it all, that was great.

But this is my childhood and this is my young adult life, and now my adult life's one true emotional connection to sports.

I stood there thinking to myself what this would feel like. Thinking about how we really do invest ourselves into this game and wondering why. Why do we do this? This is a game that can only reward one team a year for being the best. We've witnessed a team in Chicago not win for over a century. That's many lifetimes of many people without being able to see through the reward of being a fan.

I'm not sure why we do it, or why I do it. But we do. And I will stand there next year in 2017 if I get the privilege to. I will be there emotionally and invested in this team. As cruel as baseball is as a sport, it is just as amazing. As cruel as it was to sit there and watch the Indians hopes slip away with each run that they improbably scored, it was just as amazing to sit there and watch them come back. To battle. Cruel to see two teams that want this so bad, with fans that want it so bad for them have to put the other down to get what they want. But amazing to see a franchise starved for 108 years finally break down all the bad and come out on top.

Good for the Cubs, right? They can finally put Bartman, the goat, and all that other crap to rest. They can move on and be a baseball franchise again.

I'm so scattered because now I've reach that overwhelmed feeling yet again. But this is the type of overwhelming feeling you don't want to have. I'm anxious for next year, but completely devastated about this year still. I don't know what to say or how to compartmentalize it because it's just everywhere. I'd be a mess had they won it, but at least I could feel good.

This sucks and I'm sad and I just can't sit here and continue to think about the what if. It's hard to sit here and put it in perspective, even though the Cubs are absolutely the most talented team on the planet and everything that has been said up to this point is true. I don't want to put it into perspective because I just want the Indians to have won.

I sit here and scroll through these damn pictures, looking at the pain and anguish on the faces of these people. Fellow Indians fans who were just as downtrodden as I was last night. I wish there was a camera on me as I left the bar and followed me to my car. To capture the look on my face that was properly showing the emptiness in my heart. The hollow feeling of there being nothing there when you expected it to be.

People around me cursed, cried, and collapsed. I looked down to the ground and put my hands on my head. I am those people in those pictures, we all are, even if there isn't a picture of us that exists. Forget Jordan Crying Meme, slap one of those faces on a picture of me.

To have done this all. To have watched this team battle against everything that was thrown their way. To have turned every excuse upside down and back around. To have it all go their way when it had to and to have played their tails off. To watch it not happen.

I'm not sure how one recovers from this. But we will, because most of us have been living with this most our lives. This team lost Game 7 in the World Series 19 years ago. This certainly isn't the first time this happened. This team lost a 3-1 lead in the playoffs nine years ago. This certainly isn't the first time this happened either.

As painful as it is, we'll go through this offseason and get hungrier and hungrier for the new season until it is finally here. Until we can finally stop saying, "let's just start playing now" and we are actually seeing our team play. When November 2nd, albeit still fresh, is now a distant memory that we will treat as such, a distant memory.

Like Cody Allen, I don't want to wait. I want it to start right now despite the emotional drain that was. This was a team that was so perfectly what our true core fan base is. And I couldn't be more prouder to have my allegiances lie with this team and those players. They make me proud to walk around today with my Block C hat on despite coming up short.

They make me proud and justify the emotion, passion, money, respect, love, time, effort, joy, and frustration that I put into them.

You will never get a run like this again and it is a shame that historically, it won't be as remembered as it could have been and won't be because this team didn't win it all. And this was the Cubs team that did it to boot, the team that broke the drought. The Indians and their run will be an afterthought, and really, that's not a bad thing, it's just a reality of success and winning it all. We'll remember it, but we won't remember it as fondly as we could have.

And that perhaps is the most saddest part of this all. That this run that won't be immortalized is now over and that the one group that could immortalize it regardless of outcome probably doesn't want to because it ended in absolute heartbreak. As drained and exhausted as we all are, this magical moment has now come to a close. Yes, it is crushing that it comes to a close without a chapter of celebration and joy, but it's just straight up sad that it's over period.

When I started writing this, I didn't know what it would end up looking like. To be honest, I don't even know how to end it just as much as how I didn't know how to start it. I'm yet again stuck on how to put these really strange emotions that I don't think I've ever encountered in quite this way into words and it sort of haunts me.

It haunts me because I feel like there's more to it and that I'm missing something. This is where we wake up and today is the real Game 7 right? That was so absurd that it wasn't real and the real game where Corey Kluber goes out and doesn't look completely gassed and gives us six strong innings. Mike Napoli goes out and redeems his terrible postseason with a three-run shot that actually brings to life the Party at Napoli's mantra that has surrounded this team all year. Jose Ramirez slaps a double up the alley to score Kipnis to take a three run lead while Andrew Miller comes in and continues to look like the cyborg he is for two innings. Cody Allen's ball hits Roberto Perez's mitt not soon before they sprint into each other's arms and the team comes flying in to pile on. Michael Martinez trails out of the dugout not to hit, but to be the last one on the dogpile.

That's all going to happen right? We're all going to wake up and the real game will happen.

Or, we're all going to go to bed now, hoping we wake up and April 2017 is here and we can begin this journey all over again, hoping for the outcome that we can't stop ever dreaming of. The one that everyone will remember.


Cleveland Is Going to the World Series and It Is Completely Overwhelming

I'll never forget staring into the back of Alex Escobar's number six jersey on a windy night in September. With ample room to put your feet up on the back of a green chair at what was still Jacob's Field, it seems pretty strange to enjoy that moment, but it was all too-routine to be doing it and I enjoyed that routine.

From the view of section 109, I would sit, waiting for something good to happen for my team and often times, nothing good would happen. But when it did, boy, that was fun. Those moments were few and far between. Lots of looking out to home plate, trying to not fixate on whatever right fielder was out there.

Despite that, at that point in time I was just a kid who enjoyed watching baseball. Sure, the Indians, in the midst of a rebuilding phase, were not very good. But, it was baseball and it was my team. And it was my Dad and I sitting there as we did about a dozen times each year. If it wasn't Alex Escobar, it was somebody else we would be fixated on, the right fielder being the thing we could admire every time we would go to a game because they were so close.

I don't think I could begin to tell you the different names I had to stare at in the early 2000's. They run the gambit of bad to terrible, flash-in-the-pan to young guy who would never make it. You likely remember most of them unless you blacked out that point of time in Indians baseball. Of course, there was also Jody Gerut, the greatest right fielder to ever play for the Cleveland Indians, but besides that, it was a lot of Chris Magruder and Shane Spencer and Karim Garcia and Matt Lawton and I'm just going to stop now.

I thought the highlight of my fandom of the Cleveland Indians was in 2007 when the team made the playoffs and made an enjoyable run through the ALCS. I stood in the concourse chanting Casey Blake's name with 35,000+ others after he came up with a big hit to help beat the Detroit Tigers. The Indians were on their way to winning the division. I sat in the outfield and watched Joba Chamberlain spray himself down with bug spray and Travis Hafner come up with a walk-off hit that helped the Indians trajectory aim towards the ALCS. Then I watched the Indians go up 3-1 on the Boston Red Sox from the way up seats behind home plate. Never had I ever felt energy around me feel so powerful.

My favorite team is going to the World Series...

Until they didn't. And as crushed as I was, it's blurry to me, all that happened. I have those as lasting memories, but they don't really mean a whole lot. I remember a lot about that season but I don't remember how I felt at the end of it all. I was crushed, like you probably were at the time, but now I sit back and try and remember and I can't. I probably put them into words, but those words are long gone. I can't describe the feeling as perfectly as I can some of the moments.

I can remember feeling joy and pride when those young and untested teams of the early 2000's would go out there and fail time and time again, but sometimes come up with a moment of happiness. I remember the feeling, but I don't remember the moments. I remember the moments of 2007, but not the feeling. Of course, electricity and energy and just absolute euphoria for some of those memories, in those moments. And a little bit of disappointment in the moments of heartbreak.

But what does it really feel like? Maybe it is the moment of now that is kind of clouding that and when this ride is all said and done, that will change and I will be able to feel what 2007 was again. Probably not.

That's where I am at now, strangely enough. I can't grasp this idea that the Cleveland Indians are in the World Series. That they are on the brink of potentially winning the whole entire thing and sending my entire body into a complete state of okay what do I do now I don't know cry laugh celebrate jump shrug emoji overload okay overload system shutdown...this must be what happens when my computer overloads and just quits. My brain just over-computed. I can't handle this.

I don't have an idea of what that moment will even feel like or what I'd even do, because I can't even feel this moment. I think the best word is overwhelmed. I now truly can understand and feel and understand what that feeling really is. The anticipation of this moment here and any moment beyond this has been a long time build. I now get it and understand the 2004 Boston Red Sox thing for fans of that team or the feeling many of you probably had earlier this year with the Cleveland Cavaliers. It now all makes sense. The "ohhh I get it now" moment you have when a friend talks about something and your like "sure okay" and then you experience that and...you get it.

Sports is a thing and it's fun and games and you should enjoy it. Of course long periods of unsuccessful outcomes for your favorite teams is kind of brutal, but at the end of the day, it's just something that's there and life will go on as such. But this is a team that I've invested a lot of hours, lots of words, lots of thoughts, lots of pride, and numerous other tangible and intangible things in. And now I get it and I truly am overwhelmed.

I know there's more games to play, but this is now unfamiliar territory. I've wondered for years what a trip to the World Series would feel like and now that it is here, I am overwhelmed. Do I run around the room screaming my head off in excitement? Do I cry? Do I shout at all the people that doubted/downed the regime that put this team together? Do I celebrate with friends and talk about all the good? Do I do all of that? Can I do all of that? Where do I begin? What do I do first? I'm running around in a sea of people. Who do I hug first?

This is being overwhelmed. And this is me getting it and finally understanding it. Sports was a thing for me growing up. Now, priorities are different and I've gone from a time in my life where it was everything and all of them were everything to a point where it's just baseball and there is one team that I put everything into. Perhaps the shedding of that was entering adulthood for me. I don't know the starting lineup of every MLB team like I used to and I don't even know every player in the Indians organization like I used to, but my investment into this team has been the one thing that has never changed, regardless of how much I tried to learn about them and the game. And now, with all that investment and perhaps even more of a perspective of what this is, looking back at the tough years, remembering the faint memories of the last time the Indians were here in the World Series as a youngster, taking in the heartbreak of 2007 as a young adult, and the anticipation of knowing that this team is talented and was absolutely capable of doing something like this...


Completely and utterly overwhelmed.

Next Tuesday seems like it should be tomorrow, but it also seems like it is a year away because it feels like you can't realistically wait for it. But it's only next Tuesday and after a weekend and a day, it will be here. With so many years of anticipation, asking to anticipate for five or so more days isn't a big deal. But, really, we all want it to be here, and be here now, so it is a big deal.

In addition to not knowing what to do, I don't even know what to write. I've written a sentences and deleted them so many times throughout getting to this point. But when I don't know what else to do, the thing I do do is write. About life, about sports, about anything, I write things because that's how I express emotions when I don't know how to express them. That's me. Whether you read it or not, whether I go back and re-read it later, or write it and delete it because I just had to say it.

I don't know how to express these emotions, so I am writing. But again, the ironic part to all of it is, I for the first time in my life, don't know what to write. What do I say? It's that overwhelming feeling from above. It's now coming out in the form that I'm most used to. It's disrupting the one thing that I know works when I don't have any options.

So I guess I'm just going to continue to sit here and not put what this is into words. I don't know how many words or characters this has ended up being or if any of it was meaningful. It is the true and ultimate form of me babbling. It is the steady stream of consciousness that you've likely seen from me in the past if you've ever read something I've written in it's most advanced stage.

It's me standing here at a keyboard as always, but for the first time, completely and utterly overwhelmed to the point where I don't know what I could possible say.

And the Cleveland Indians have done this to me. And that is where my dilemma begins and ends. I have so much to say about them and about this moment that I truly can't figure out how to prioritize it or say it properly, so I'm just not going to. One thought is no more important than the other in my mind about this team that I can't decide what to write about them to do it justice in my mind. And if I wait any longer, if I wait for another round and another possible moment where I could feel this way again, then the overwhelming feeling might completely overtake me.

Well, you know what? If it does, just let it happen. Because I'm ready for it, because as much as the feeling of being overwhelmed has been associated to be negative or nerve-ending, I can honestly say this now that I sit here feeling it at one if it's most heightened states.

It's the best feeling in the world. I'm ready to be overwhelmed.


Pushing is Better than Mashing: How Terry Francona Managed An ALDS Sweep

Ever get so frustrated with a video game you just start mashing buttons on the controller hoping it will work?

Yeah, been there. Just press the buttons man. It gives you a better chance because you know what your pressing.

It would be hard to say that anyone could be envious of any manager in Major League Baseball, given the decisions they need to make on a daily basis, or even decisions they don't make on a daily basis. Because, regardless, it all comes back down to them.

Excuse me while I evoke the wise waxing of Manny Acta for a second.

But being one of the 30 managers in baseball is something that most in coaching would strive towards. Who wouldn't want to be in that position to pull the strings. Right?

Well, not me, but I don't aspire to be in that position. It's a tough spot, because even though there are other coaches on staff and you probably use their input, and there's a front office that puts the talent together, the manager is the figurehead. He gets the praise, and with it, the backlash.

It's no secret that I haven't been the largest fan of the tactical and strategical moves that Indians manager Terry Francona has employed over the past few years. This is the same man who said, during the between-time of his stints with Boston and Cleveland, that when you are bunting you are playing for one run, and then continuously would let his prized rookie shortstop bunt a runner over in the first inning of a game or in a game he is down by one-run in early. What, playing for one run?

The constant utilization of Mike Aviles, in left field to boot, despite evidence to suggest that is perhaps an ill-advised move was simply met with calls of "Mikey does a good job out there." Does he? Does he really?

These issues aside, I've harbored a lot of irritation for his strategy. Where I do appreciate Terry Francona is in the clubhouse and the things we don't see. Sometimes, those things that make him great, attribute to the irritations, like his affinity for Mike Aviles, but otherwise, you could do a lot worse than Francona, I'm fully aware of this. In a division that has a real gem like Robin Ventura (not really), a master strategist in Brad Ausmus (you're kidding right?), and a cerebral visionary with Ned Yost (hahahaha, Ned Yost has a World Series), I'll go ahead and say I'm okay with Tito heading up the Tribe, warts and all.

And look, you are talking about a guy who is loved, respected, and heralded in the game. Sometimes that sort of stuff builds up a little bit of an excuse or preservation of reputation, but you can't argue with the fact that the dude has been successful, whether it's by hook or crook. And with that, comes respect that he gets, mostly from his players.

With that in mind, there's been a sort of shifting in dynamic over the past week or so. Hell, it's even been happening for a few months if you go back far enough and comb over things. Slowly, but surely, Terry Francona is becoming the manager that both players and critics are starting to get behind. He's already got that first part down and if he continues wheeling with the sudden gun-slinging visionary tactics he has been and leads the Indians to the promise land, it will be hard to find someone who won't back Tito.

Francona is pushing ALL of the right buttons right now. In addition to that, he's employing strategies and forward thinking that many didn't even think possible. He's leveraging a bullpen masterfully, letting players execute strategy on the base paths to create the best situations possible, and making calls on his lineup and defensive arrangement that make him smell of pure success.

Before the ALCS gets underway and we get to see the game plan of one Terrance Jon Francona unfurl, let's look back at the ALDS and check-down every move he made that helped lead the Indians to a 3-0 series sweep over the Boston Red Sox.

Before the series

Bullpen Makeup

Much was debated about leaving off a second left-hander, likely Kyle Crockett, in favor of maligned starter-turned reliever, but sometimes starter Cody Anderson and Jeff Manship. Even Perci Garner got some "hey what about that guy" love from people questioning the bullpen makeup. Turns out Kyle Crockett had some back-issues and well, Jeff Manship, big HAH if you thought a Terry Francona postseason roster wouldn't carry him. An old dog can still keep his spots even if you give him a haircut.

The thing is, despite my internal screaming of "Whyyy Manship Whyyy" and his 5.11 FIP, if you are using either of these guys, things either went really bad or really good. Manship isn't giving you any meaningful innings and well, Anderson would only be in there for a worst case scenario of a starter not being able to give you anything. The Indians would be in dire straights if they had to use either guy and as it turned out, neither guy was summoned. Heck, Tito didn't even have to use Zach McAllister, so the inclusion of those two is clearly nothing to have worried about in hindsight, Crockett injury not withstanding.

Bench Spots

The other point of contention was the carrying of three catchers, technically. With Yan Gomes's inclusion, surely there was a thought that he was healthy enough to be the full time catcher. That is relatively unknown, but things were clarified when Tito straight up stood by Roberto Perez as the team's starting catcher. Then why is Chris Gimenez around? To catch Trevor Bauer right? Nope! Perhaps because he's the backup catcher, not Gomes. So why is Gomes around? While he didn't get an appearance, you have to believe his inclusion was mainly for late-game matchup reasons that Tito just didn't need to justify because the situation did not present itself.

So all-in-all, even the pre-series moves, Tito and company hit on them, even if we had some questions. Danny Salazar is still not ready to go, so we'll likely see a similar cast of characters and likely have to once again hope Jeff Manship doesn't see the light of day. I've repeated Manship's FIP and xFIP (4.81) numbers so often, I don't even have to pull up Fan Graphs anymore.

Getty Images
Game 1

If there was ever a time to put on a managing clinic and turn in quite possibly the best game of your Indians managerial career, this is one of those times. And with that, Tito set the tone for the series. Let's start from the beginning of decisions with the puppeteer extraordinaire.

T5- Leon Homers off Bauer, Tito sticks with him

You would think that after giving up a homer to the eight hitter and losing the two-run cushion, Tito would get super itchy and just go straight to his bullpen right then and there. But Tito realizes that every out matters and if he could get a few more out of Bauer, he can get a few more out of Miller if he can bring him in to face the lefty, instead of the bottom of the order. So Tito stuck with Bauer despite the homer and Trevor rewarded him with a Benintendi fly out and a Pedroia strike out, leaving Tito in a position to call for Miller to end the fifth.

As this is unfolding, I'm thinking Bauer is looking better than his statistics indicate and hoping Tito at least let's Bauer continue. He's getting ahead of guys, throwing strikes, he hadn't walked anyone, but he was just having issues putting guys away. He got bit by Leon and that's something you just nod your head to and be thankful it didn't put them behind. His trust in Bauer paid off.

T5- Tito deploys Miller in the fifth to face Brock Holt

It didn't produce the immediate result that Tito was looking for, which was likely Miller getting Brock Holt, but going to Andrew Miller in that situation was the right call. Ideally he gets Holt, the left-hander, and gets Betts leading off the inning rather than with a runner on. No biggie, after walking Betts, Miller met the guy, despite what role he would be called upon to fill, he is expected to neutralize, be it in the fifth or the ninth. Miller faced David Ortiz and struck him out, exactly what Tito wants, the Miller/Ortiz matchup.

B5- Indians rally, knock out Porcello, score a run, Tito sticks with Chisenhall

An extra run was added in the fifth after a Roberto Hercules Perez single, Santana fly out that (smartly on Roberto's part) advanced Perez to second, and Kipnis single. Big ups to Mike Sarbaugh for making the call to send Roberto, it worked out. Pomeranz was brought in to bring Jason Kipnis, similarly how Miller was brought in to face Holt. After a ground rule double and an intentional walk, the bases are all of a sudden very loaded and the Indians have a chance to really make a mess of things in the fifth.

It's the fifth, you already have gone to your pen, whose to say you can't go to your bench? Brandon Guyer, a lefty-masher to face Pomeranz? Would it prompt Boston manager John Farrell to make a counter move, which would invalidate your move to Guyer? There's a bit of psychology to play here as you have to basically decided what your better matchup is: Brandon Guyer vs RHP of Farrell's choosing or Chisenhall vs Pomeranz if you think Farrell is going to go away from Guyer/Pomeranz. You can either get the matchup you want, or get rid of Pomeranz.

This felt more like a move for innings, not matchups, and Pomeranz was in it for the long-haul. So Tito makes the call to keep his better defender in there, even if he has to let Chisenhall strikeout with the bases loaded to end the fifth.

T6 - Miller settles in

A 1-2-3 inning helps Tito's Game 1 plan immensely.

B6- Tito goes to Rajai Davis

Last inning, Tito had a chance to make a switch and bring in Brandon Guyer. Here he has the opportunity to dispatch the other half of his outfield platoon by using Rajai Davis for Tyler Naquin. The at-bats for Naquin against lefties are virtually non-existent, so the call is made to lose Naquin for this particular matchup, which will give you another idea of what Farrell intends on doing with Pomeranz. Davis, despite his handedness is actually a higher wRC+ player against righties than he is lefties, and has a smaller difference between at-bats between lefties and righties than Naquin. Tito assumes he'll get one at-bat against Pomeranz but then have Davis the rest of the way against the righties in Boston's pen.

Of course, Davis strikes out, and so does Perez, as did Crisp a hitter before, making this a clean inning for Pomeranz and all of this pretty moot. The strategy is interesting though.

T7 - Shaw relieves Miller

Tito squeezes two more at-bats, one against Leon and another against left-handed Benitendi out of Miller before he brings in Bryan Shaw, who he utilizes to get righty Dustin Pedroia. Shaw is in for three lower leverage (as lower as a middle of an order can be) outs before Ortiz comes up again, Tito wants him to get three batters so Ortiz has to come up in the eighth inning with nobody on, two outs, and a two-run lead.

T8 - Shaw doesn't go with the plan, Tito brings in Allen

Tito's master plan goes out the window with a Brock Holt home run to lead off the inning. Now Betts and Ortiz can bat with just a one-run deficit, making all of their at-bats the potential to be lethal. Shaw is kept in to get Betts, and that prompts Tito to go for a five-out save with Cody Allen. From here, it is a lot of hoping Allen gets the job done, which he does, even if it was shaky.

Call back to leaving Chisenhall in the game, although he didn't peg him, Lonnie came super close to nabbing Ortiz at second. This likely doesn't happen with any of the Indians other outfielders. Regardless, Cody Allen gets the job done and not once was there a doubt. Well, yes there was, this was filled with lots of beads of sweat and stomach knots.

Getty Images
Game 2

Getting through Game 1 masterfully was obviously the ideal scenario seeing as you had Corey Kluber on the mound for Game 2. Now you're looking for a little more length out of your starter to make it easier on your bullpen, but still, there were some decisions to be made.

Lineup - Chisenhall vs the Lefty

Perhaps sticking with the idea that he has a better outfielder in Chisenhall than he does in Coco Crisp, Tito goes against what would be his year-long conventional wisdom and starts Lonnie Chisenhall in right field against a left-handed pitcher. Brandon Guyer goes in left field and Rajai Davis starts in center.

Here's Chisenhall's season breakdown against left-handers, which he isn't really allowed to face, because, numbers.

.217 AVG, 19.2 K%, .294 OBP, 72 wRC+

He's hit not a single home run this year, to add to his grand total of eight in 337 career at-bats against lefties. Chisenhall's last start against a LHP? August 25th against Cole Hamels. Also the last time Josh Tomlin walked someone. Must have been a weird day all around.

Strangely though, one of those eight homers off a LHP? David Price. And when you think about it, what more of a chance does Coco Crisp really give you? In fact, Coco's 2016 wRC+ against lefties? 71. He's not even better than Chisenhall and he's had double the at-bats! Tito makes an excellent call to keep the better defender who has just as much of an opportunity to get a hit off Price. He compensates by hitting him eighth behind Guyer. Don't overlook this detail, and credit Tito with lineup construction, something he's both bucked the trend on and been regressive with in one season. THAT is impressive.

Of course, the move pays off in a big way. Not only playing Chisenhall, but the spot in the order is key as Lonnie comes up in a position against a lefty, for the second night in a row mind you, to deal a big blow early in the game. This time he comes through and it all started before the team even took the field.

B6 - Tito sticks with his lineup

Perhaps the biggest cap tip to Tito other than his Chisenhall play was keeping the guys in the lineup that night. In the sixth, despite a reliever on the mound, Tito stuck with Brandon Guyer and Guyer came up with another hit against a right-hander. Farrell would then start playing matchups bringing in Robbie Ross to face Chisenhall. This time Chiz wasn't as lucky against the lefty, but quickly Farrell would turn to Brad Ziegler to face consecutive righties Roberto Perez and Rajai Davis. Instead of Tito going to a righty for Chisenhall, he stuck with him and that let the rest of the inning unfold. Davis would hit a sac-fly off Ziegler.

T8 - Tito ready to go with the B-Squad

And when I say B-Squad, I mean that in the nicest way possible. With having pushed Allen and Miller to the limit the previous night, getting seven strong from Corey Kluber was obviously the optimal scenario. So why not get more? Tito let Kluber go out to face the bottom of the order, which is an absolutely okay thing to do with a six run lead. Step on their throats, don't worry about the possibility of Kluber on short rest, and go for the win. Unfortunately he couldn't get either out, but he had Dan Otero on stand-by. The obvious ultimate goal is to get through these two innings without having to use any big guns and Otero makes Tito look like a genius and makes just winning the game a secondary achievement. Otero strikes out Pedroia, gets a Brock Holt line out and unlike Shaw the previous night, sets up a bases-empty situation for David Ortiz by getting Betts to groundout.

T9 - Shaw, for the hell of it

He probably could have stuck with Otero, but instead of tempting fate, he lets Shaw start an inning clean and Shaw rewards him with three outs. This was an easier game to manage due to his starter's brilliance and his excellent pre-game lineup decision. Sometimes, these calls make themselves. Internal screaming died down for one game. Breathe, one more to go, but this may be the trickiest one.

Getty Images
Game 3

And here we go, things have played out the way the Indians wanted, sans the rainout of Sunday's game, which would put them in a position to have to play three games in a row if the series went to five games, which obviously doesn't play well into the bullpen plans. Another reason to go for the jugular if you have the opportunity. Think they will?

Keeping with Tomlin

In actuality, Trevor Bauer would have started Game 4, which would have occurred on Monday, which is when Game 3 actually happened. In theory, could they have gone with Trevor Bauer on short rest? Sure, but the right move was to stick with Josh Tomlin. You are pretty much moving forward with the same plan you deployed in Game 1. So, even in hindsight, going with Tomlin is the right call in this situation, especially up 2-0. The reasons to do this outweigh the reasons to not do this.

T4 - Coco Sac-Bunt

You know me and how I don't like to endorse a good bunt attempt, let alone a bad one. I'd maintain that the Indians need to be more aggressive and need to attempt to score more than one run, which is theoretically what the bunt is aimed to do, set you up to score at least one.

Except for this situation where it can set you up to score two with a single, which is exactly what happened. This isn't a "did he make the right call or not" type of an outlook, it's more so a look at all the decisions that were made that panned out and this one most definitely did. And I can even get behind it a little considering you have a guy like Coco Crisp, who you aren't really counting on to come up with any big hits (whoops!), that actually does have the capability of executing a bunt. Add in there's two guys on, which sets up a one out, two in scoring position situation. Again the argument is you need more than one run, which is perfectly valid and the line of thinking I fall into. But there's a few times a bunt can be justified with some sort of understanding and Tito pushed a right button here. Plus, Coco Crisp hitting into a double play has better odds of occurring than Coco Crisp jacking one over the Green Monster and spontaneous combust as he touches home plate.

B5 - Sticking with Tomlin, again

Keeping Tomlin in despite giving up a RBI double was the right call. Again, in a game where every out matters in terms of your bullpen, to get a few more from Tomlin was huge. Tomlin was also not looking like he was in any sort of danger and he had not yet gone through the lineup for a third time, so keeping with him was a good call as you would then be able to deploy Andrew Miller for the middle of the Boston lineup.

Not to mention, Josh Tomlin was pitching really really well. Perhaps one of the grittiest and gutsiest performances we've seen in quite some time.

T6 - Another Bunt? Whatever.

While I have a little understanding of the previous bunting situation mentioned, this one, didn't make sense. Here's the funny thing though. It didn't matter. Tito may have outsmarted himself a bit on this one, calling for a bunt after Jose Ramirez lead off the inning with a walk.

Was it because of the left-handed hitter in Lonnie Chisenhall? We already recapped the whole lefty-righty thing and obviously in the sixth and having mentioned the fact that Lonnie Chisenhall is probably your best defensive outfielder, perhaps this was Tito's way of keeping Chisenhall in the game but also taking the bat out of his hands in a way that made sense.

What's funny is that the bunt was rendered moot (other than mentioning that perhaps Chisenhall gets on and it's a 3-run homer) after Coco Crisp, he of "take the bat out of his hands" fame from the first time around, belts one well over the Green Monster in left. So, moral of the story is, screw bunts, hit dingers and be glad he didn't spontaneously combust.

B6 - Miller Time Part 2

So in a virtual mirroring of what Tito did in Game 1, here comes Andrew Miller at the slightest bit of trouble with the middle of the lineup, only it comes an inning later, which is obviously better. Miller has an issue though. He lets up a double and a sac-fly and a run scores, but after this, he does his job. Heck, a clean slate and there isn't a run, so maybe Miller was used a tad late. But with a three, now two run lead, and Miller pitching the seventh, you are in a good spot. Not everything is going to be perfect.

B8 - Shaw gets a clean inning, here comes Cody

Regardless of how on-point he was or wasn't, the plan in the eighth makes sense. Bryan Shaw gets a clean inning, which is what he needs. Shaw gets an out, gives up a single, but then gets another out to bring up David Ortiz, which naturally means you've seen enough of Shaw. Tito makes the call for Allen to once again get more than three outs. Allen gives up a single, which lets one of those runners score, but this looks like a dicey situation. Still, this was the plan and even if it is looking scary, you need to stick to the plan.

B9 - The plan, works, but not without an elevated heart-rate

Not much you can do in the ninth other than get Otero up in case the game gets tied. But thankfully, that never happened and despite his lack of command on his breaking stuff and the amped-up fastball that wasn't hitting the zone either, Allen gets the job done and completes Tito's brilliant bullpen work.

Getty Images
So here's the question, can this work two more times?

Sure, in a five game series, this was easy to employ. With a break after two games, only needing to win three, you could maneuver your way around to set this up. With weapons like these, it makes it easy to go hunting.

A seven game series is a bit of a different animal and Tito is looking at a little bit of a different outlook if things don't go exactly how he would hope they would. Is Tito revolutionizing the way things are done in the postseason? I think "revolutionize" is a strong word, but the Indians as a whole are giving a little perspective to the world on how you CAN do things in the postseason. It's not unprecedented of course. The Royals used a deep and lethal bullpen to do some damage, but the Indians are doing things a little differently out of a situation that simply is dictating them to do so thanks in part to the injuries to Carrasco and Salazar.

Francona's bullpen usage has turned for the better since Miller's arrival, that is no secret. It's easier to make decisions when you have more options, especially good options, and even more so with options like Andrew Miller who can fill a variety of roles. I've said this repeatedly, but look how much more difficult Joe Girardi's job became when he lost Miller and Aroldis Chapman. I look back to that extra-inning game the Indians lost to New York back in July. Girardi won that game because he had that dynamic trio that got him through 5.1 innings of work. That was one less out than his starter, CC Sabathia, gave him. Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Corey Kluber accounted for 14 innings pitches in this series. Which is a shade over half of the 27 innings you need to get through in three games. Looks familiar, doesn't it?

In the postseason, I think it is pretty clear what Francona is looking to do with a depleted rotation. The Indians have already announced they intend on going with a Kluber/Bauer/Tomlin/Probably Clevinger & Pen lineup, which already presents a different dynamic of what they had in the ALDS. Because Game 5 would come immediately after Game 4, you can't really start putting Kluber & Bauer back out there after only playing three games, unless you get desperate. You can, but it probably sets them up for shorter outings and it would make more sense to throw them when they can give you more, not less. Again, it's a numbers game in terms of accumulating as many outs as possible and if things break right in the first few games, like they did in the ALDS, there's fewer outs the Indians need to concern themselves with.

Some of the other moves, not related to bullpen usage and starting rotations have been very favorable. Tito has opted to value his defense a little more (and rightfully so, especially when he stands to gain little, if anything at all with alternative moves) and not be so quick to give-in to the matchup game, which has promptly rewarded him with surprise hits, but also kept what is a more optimal roster out on the field at all times. While the Jays have a few lefties in the pen, they only have one left-handed starter in JA Happ, so we may see less of that decision making about the lineup. Still, in a longer series and with a different dynamic, it will be interesting to see how Tito approaches some of the other decisions that will likely come his way in regards to matchups and situations.

It's like that button mashing I talked about earlier. If you are just making a whole bunch of moves because you aren't sure what is going to work, you are going to get a totally random and uncontrollable result. Yeah, you could get a desired outcome, but you are removing any aspect of predictability. If you at least push the buttons in a way that you think makes the most sense, you are at least controlling your destiny, even if it may still end up losing you the game.

The way he is pushing buttons, I'm most definitely okay with Terry Francona leading the charge right now. His past issues aside, whether it was the right pieces being put in place, or Francona figuring out how to use them, things are being utilized the way they should. And here's the fun part. It's working. When you go with what makes the most sense and gives you the better percentage to win, you stand to look pretty brilliant when things do turn up your way. This is still a territory of chance and you need some luck in a MLB postseason, but it doesn't hurt to go with the moves that dictate better outcomes. And hopefully for the Indians and Francona, that outcome is another series win and a trip to the World Series.


Cleveland Fan's Guide to the 2016 Postseason on the Internet

With the ALDS officially set, our four teams in the American League decided with Toronto cementing their place after dispatching Baltimore in the AL Wild Card Game, it's time to look forward to the rest of the postseason.

In my desire to further eliminate stupid ideas and make baseball fandom a better place for all, I thought it might be helpful to establish some guidelines and rules that us as Cleveland Indians fans should abide by.


Well, look, welcome to 2016. The last time the Indians truly had any sort of a postseason run was 2007 when they went as far as Game 7 of the ALCS. I'm not one of those people that are discrediting the Wild Card as a playoff appearance, but a one-and-done scenario after a feverish end to September doesn't exactly qualify. There was a lot of ups and downs there, and the Wild Card game in 2014 certainly had some ups and downs, but this is really the first taste of extended postseason many fans in Cleveland will have. This is a different animal with ups and downs and multiple home games and all sorts of build up, I mean, who is tired already of talking about the roster and Thursday's game and all this and that?

I certainly am tired of listening to people talk about it.

So, as I sit up on my high horse, let's carve out some guidelines as you begin to enjoy this 2016 version of the MLB postseason, featuring your Cleveland Indians.


Why Being Calm is the Rational Approach for Cleveland's Final Games

Hey! You! Yeah, you out there, my fellow Cleveland Indians fan. Just one thing to really say in the aftermath of this past Monday. And I'm going to be really clear with it, as best as I can.


Your Cleveland Indians are 2016 American League Central Champions and I'm telling you to settle because you aren't calm. You're getting all uppity and feisty about these games and the lineups and winning and trying and effort and...my head 'esplode.

Here's a guy telling us to calm down, but he USES ALL CAPS TO DO IT? HOW CAN SOMEONE REMAIN CALM WHEN THERE'S SHOUTING!?

Damn straight I'm telling you to remain calm and using shouting to do it. You need to hear it. And if I have to bang my head on John Adams's drum for you to hear me, I will. I know that there are some of you that are new to this idea of contention, but, settle down and listen to me. We're about to witness the Indians enter a new type of territory in regards to baseball. I know you aren't quite accustomed to it, because this is a rare position to be in for this team in the past decade.

But, here's a secret. This isn't the regular season, this isn't even a pennant race down the stretch or fighting for that last playoff spot. This is a series of games played over the course of a few weeks to determine who is the best in baseball. And Paul Hoynes narrative aside, it hasn't even ended before it started.

The thing is, it doesn't always go to the actual best team in baseball. I'm looking at you Chicago. The Cubs should rightfully be the favorites to take everything and if you wanted to play your money smart, that's what you would do.

But you most definitely are not guaranteed to come out a winner on that bet. 

So, do me a favor here and dial it back a bit in regards to whatever your thinking about the Indians in regards to this final week. Don't do me a favor, rather, do yourself and your blood pressure a favor. Chill the hell out. And hey, here's a novel idea. Enjoy it! How about bask a little in the glow. I mean, the Indians are doing it. There's no shame. This is team is damn good, and there's some entitlement in enjoying that.

For those not accustomed to this type of situation, this is what happens in baseball. A team clinches a division and are guaranteed a trip to the postseason. In this day, they're guaranteed an appearance in the ALDS and five games to prove themselves. They don't have to worry about a one-game playoff. They're in! And this Indians team got in on Monday. That gives them a whole six games to play that are absolutely 100-percent inconsequential to them making/not making the postseason. 

If Tito wants to bat Mike Martinez second, start Mike Clevinger (who was probably going to start at this juncture anyway), and play Chris Gimenez at third, he absolutely can. Set aside his lineup staying up until 4 AM getting hammered to celebrate their accomplishment, you have one thing and one thing only to worry about.

The ALDS and surviving an entire month of a different kind of baseball game. This team played 156 games trying to win them all to put themselves in that spot. Some, like Francisco Lindor, haven't had much of a break, especially when you single-out Lindor specifically into having to travel for the All-Star Game and play in it.

So before the month that Lindor et al. are asked to play every single day and give their maximum amount of effort, it makes the best baseball sense that rest be given. And, oh yeah, very few players play 162 games in a full season. Where were you in May when Lindor was granted a day off? Save your gripes for fielding a lineup comprised of mostly reserves and September call-ups, Tito got them ALL a break on Tuesday and went back to a more competitive lineup on Wednesday. He'll continue to manage the rest/rust decisions from here on out, as he should.

This is the advantage you gain in clinching your division a week early. You use that advantage. You don't squander it, especially to be "respectful" of another team's chances of making the postseason. You worry about what you need to do to win the World Series and everything else is background noise, just let it play and focus on what you have to do.

Oh, I know what argument is coming next. Just pocket it now. No? Okay fine, go ahead.

"But they still have something to play for, what about home field advantage?"

What about it? 

No really, what about it.

Look no further than this excellent piece of research from Adam Burke:

These are coin flips! It's completely 50-50. Which means, you literally cannot say it can go one way over the other. You can't, in your best Hoynes impression say "We'll the Indians don't have home field advantage, they aren't winning the ALDS!" Either "A" can happen or "B" can happen. Does that mean the Indians won't lose the first two games on the road if they end up in that situation. No, context is everything and each year and situation is different. But over the course of all these years, no one can say you definitively have the advantage by gaining home field in the first round or in the entire playoffs for that matter.

So why, at the expense of potentially losing someone to an injury or exhausting players would you fight so hard for something that comes down to you flipping a coin to determine the outcome? Why not take the true advantage of giving your players some quality rest prior to what has the potential to be a physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting month of baseball if the Indians are so lucky to play that long?

If you can make a decent argument to counter that, then I'll be all ears. But you are unlikely to convince me otherwise. What the Indians are doing in this final week is a good call. If they end up with an extra home game, great, awesome, fantastic, cool. If they don't? Hey, is Josh Tomlin starting at home in Game 3 really a bad thing compared to if he were to be starting in Game 3 in Fenway? My point, you can spin positives and negatives each way.

Yeah, you lose Game 5 advantage, but if you play well enough in Games 1-4, Game 5 becomes unnecessary, right? Again, these are all valid arguments that fall both ways.

Which is why you shouldn't be the one freaking out about not "trying" or the lack of winning this last week. The Indians earned the ability to not having to worry about winning these last few games. And save your "mentality" talk, because the focus has now shifted to worrying about winning the more important ones, and that is what this strategy sets up to do. This is the strategy the Indians are employing and it is soundly reasoned. It's backed with evidence to suggest it is logical.

So stop freaking out, calm down, settle your jitters, and hey, enjoy the aftermath of a division clinching season until the postseason starts. Hopefully it isn't nine years between this one and the next, but you never know when you may get a chance to bask in it again.

Picture: Getty Images