9.29.2016

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.

CALM DOWN! CHILL OUT! 

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

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