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Indians Indians Archive Happy To Be Here, Ready To Believe
Written by Jeff Rich

Jeff Rich

Kip SwishI don't know how to feel.  There's that blind faith, the foolish optimism that grows on us because we're just sick of the gloom and doom.  Maybe we don't have it in us to keep the glass half-empty any more.  I know that I like to think that I've exhausted enough negative energy for three lifteimes, but a light shove can knock any one of us into that pool of pessimism at any given time.  While we don't forget that it's only baseball, only a game, there's no denying this is one of the constants in our lives.

The word "due" rattles around the brain at times like this.  That should be upgraded to "overdue", and even saying "way overdue" would be overstating nothing.  That's Cleveland, the only one I've ever known; the city hopes, and waits, and walks away disappointed.  It feels like that happens every season, going back several decades, but sometimes we are granted mercy.  At times, there is no hope and no waiting for the disappointment, so the disappointment doesn't sting; it's just a long, dull pain that we'd rather not experience.

Of course, we're still waiting for that elusive major sports championship, but the off-season is officially a thing for 21 of 30 teams, and the Indians aren't one of those teams making tee-times.  Despite the dark clouds of paranoia that are never far beyond the horizon, the Indians have given their fans hope.  Sure, hope just sets up disappointment, and most have us have been trained to consider the pending disappointment to be inevitable.  I don't feel bad about looking to that sky for that dark cloud.  I made the mistake of facing straight ahead, ignoring thunderous booms and bright flashes with light.  It wasn't until I was energized with no less than 1.21 jigga-watts of electricity that I'd ever admit that it wasn't happening in those seasons.

ActaThe bottom has fallen out, in different ways, in recent years, and Manny Acta is no longer in charge of attempting to right the ship.  There was nothing wrong with looking at 30-15 and believing there was something real about it.  The most real thing about that was being realistic about what a small snapshot 45 games can be in a 162 game season; breaking camp with Jack Hannahan and Casey Kotchman in the starting lineup gave the naysayers plenty to say too.  Tough to complain about that great start in 2011, it was a great spring for the Indians and the success-starved fans.  Keep in mind, Fausto Carmona was their Opening Day starter, and they were down 14-0 four innings into the season.

The next season, we found out that Carmona is Hernandez, so the State Department prevented Acta from putting him on the bump in Game 1.  They found ways prevent the boat from taking on water early, leading the Central division by 3.5 games in late May.  In fact, they spent a total of 48 days in first place, but it was their 5-24 August in 2012 that flushed any goodwill they'd earned over those last two seasons under Acta.  It wasn't just a matter of coming back to earth, it was losing streaks of 11, 9, 6, and 5 in their final 63 games.  Acta didn't even get to the manage the last 6; the organization that played the nostaliga card with their "What If" campaign pulled a few more strings by giving Sandy Alomar a two-series trial run last September.  The former catcher didn't work miracles in the season's final homestand, not that anyone was expecting Cord Phelps, Brent Lillibridge, and Vinnie Rottino to inspire hope for a World Series in 2013.

In a surprising sequence of events, Sandy Alomar wasn't offered the manager gig by the Indians or anyone else in Major League Baseball, but he may have lost out to the only man on the planet that could have edged him out.  On paper, there was no reason for Terry Francona to take on the task of turning the Indians around, but he ended up being Mark Shapiro's ace-in-the-hole, and it started a chain of events that led to the Indians "winning the off-season", if that's even real thing.  After being handed a legitimate reason to abandon all hope, hope suddenly springs eternal in Cleveland once again.  I knew to approach with caution, but it was really a whole new ballgame.

Big GHaving spent a lot of time with this team in Arizona before the season, you could tell right away that things would be different with Francona, Nick Swisher, and Jason Giambi, even though I didn't feel Giambi belonged on a 25-man roster at any point during Spring Training.  There's something to be said for leadership, whether its Francona leaning on his lieutenants, Alomar, Mickey Callaway, and even Giambi, or Swisher keeping the guys loose with his genuine personality.  Jason Kipnis also did a lot of growing up this year, and it's my opinion that he will soon deserve that label as a leader.  Yan Gomes might also be there next season, but next season remains off the RADAR while this one continues.

So, here we are with the ball on the tee, knowing that anything other than a perfect shot down the fairway of victory is going to land in that rough of devastation.  That's some terrain that we're familiar with, from 2007, as Terry Francona was in the other clubhouse, his star outfielder telling the press that not coming back from 3-1 isn't the end of the world.  We've been walking through that same rough, looking for our ball and our sanity, since the Browns were losing on the green-painted frozen dirt at Municipal Stadium (you can pick the year).  At least the Indians of those years did nothing, sans an epic Sports Illustrated Baseball Preview, to offer us any hope.  We went to the games, sat in whatever empty seats we liked best, and often watched nine innings of ugly baseball in an ugly concrete structure that didn't even look as good as Milwaukee's ugly concrete structure.  There was no hope, no real sense in waiting for Vern Ruhle or Rich Yett to pitch us into American League East title contention, but no real disappointment either.

ThomeThere's no real point in recapping everything that was wonderful about the renaissance in the 90s, the new building at Carnegie and Ontario, or the disappointing World Series defeats.  From where I sit, it was awesome, all of it, even the part where the Tribe finishes short of the finish line.  That might just be me emanating the stench of "happy to be here", but I've always been in the camp where it's better to have lost two World Series than to have never been there.  My appreciation of 2nd place trophies is probably no greater than that of John Kreese, and I like participation trophies even less, but how should I feel about the Indians playing bonus baseball on Wednesday?

Well, it wouldn't be wrong to say I'm just happy be here.  It's not setting the bar low.  No Cleveland team has played a post-season game since the 2009-2010 Cavaliers, meaning the last playoff game in Northeast Ohio birthed the narrative of a certain someone quitting.  Maybe, it's just time for a new beginning.  Remember, it was really bad for Boston before it was really good, as bad as things could be in a town with countless tapestries in the rafters of their arena.  Now, I don't like "What If"; I consider it a crutch, but what if the Indians go out there this October and officially end this dark era in Cleveland sports history?  It probably began with Jimmy Brown walking away from the Browns, under the duress of Art Modell's unreasonable demands, and ends with whatever moment you believe to be rock bottom.  I don't know what the low point is, other than to say it probably happened during the Acta Era, even if it wasn't necessarily a Tribe low-light.

Is it wrong to say that the ball has just bounced our way this year?  I think so, and I think that's what may make it different.  Maybe, that's whey I think they might be immune to whatever "Only in Cleveland" moment that seems to have plauged so many before the 2013 Indians.  Maybe, I'm just reaching, because I don't want to say that the dream might end before it gets good.  We probably feel like we deserve more, but a 10-game season ending winning streak might just be all the euphoria the baseball gods feel we're entitled to.  I know that I'm playing the "we" and "our" cards, but I believe the fans are now an integral part of the equation.  Everything else comes and goes, but we remain, even if it's just to root for jerseys in the long run.

This season, I didn't buy-in.  While I believed that it's a whole new ballgame with all the new pieces-parts on board, the half-full glass had some emptiness to it.  Trevor Bauer wasn't ready.  Nick Swisher was damaged goods.  Lou Marson still couldn't hit.  Asdrubal Cabrera took weeks off at a time.  The bullpen wasn't right.  Jason Giambi was eating up a roster spot.  And, the Tigers were sick of the Indians kicking their ass (so, a 10-8 season advantage for the Tribe in 2012 doesn't constitute an ass-kicking; sue me).

Giambi walkoffToo much experience in the arena of letdowns, it takes down even some of the most hardcore believers.  Scott Kazmir was ready, after a year out of the game.  While Swisher struggled, Mark Reynolds picked up the slack for a few weeks.  Yan Gomes can hit, and Yan can catch too; I'm not sure the average Tribe fan could tell you what ever became of Marson.  It's hard to say the bullpen is on track, but the unexpected additions of Carlos Carrasco and Justin Masterson to the relief staff might just work.  No one is saying Jason Giambi did a lot of things, but the things he did were vital; he won two games in a season that the Indians had literally zero margin for error.  Then, there was Ublado Jimenez.  It doesn't happen without him pitching like he wants to make a lot of money in free agency, and that's one of the many ingredients to the recipe for going 21-6 in September.  It's hard to say there's an answer for what Detroit did to them on the field in 2013, but we can cross that bridge when we come to it.  Nobody believes they will.

They could get there.  There's no good reason to do anything but believe good things could happen.

They will. We will.  It all starts Wednesday at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario with the arm of Danny Salazar, and it's best if you believe in good things.

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