That’s the word that best describes the 2013 Cleveland Indians. They are a collection of players that is largely devoid of stars from a national perspective. They are a talented group of individuals for sure but there is no ace of staff, no dominant closer, and no big slugger in the middle of the lineup. No, the Tribe is made up of a group of strong willed players who believe, above else, that together they can accomplish the task at hand.
I’ve been saying all year how much I love following this team. They’re just a fun team to root for. They don’t have Manny, Belle, and Thome in the middle of the lineup like in the 90’s and actually when you look at this team on paper they look more like a team that should finish around .500 and not one that won 92 games and is headed to the playoffs. That’s why I love sports and that’s why I love this team. Because in sports it’s not just about putting a team together on paper and adding up all those player’s collective WAR numbers and coming up with a win total. (Just ask the Angels.) They have to coalesce as a team and act as one unit. The truly great teams are more than just the sum of their individual parts. They become stronger and greater as a single unit than they could ever be on their own.
If you’re just jumping on the Tribe bandwagon now, I’m glad that you’re here but you’ve missed a really fun ride. Baseball is a grind to play but it’s also a grind to follow. The Indians teams over the previous several seasons had tailed off in the second half of the season and I’ll be honest and say that I lost interest in August and September. But this team had me from the start and never let me drift. Not even preseason NFL was enough to draw me away!
The story of the 2013 Indians is a fun one because it really typifies baseball with its ebbs and flows and ups and downs. The down was in late July when they suffered a four-game sweep at the hand of the Tigers and the playoffs looked out of reach. The up is right now: riding a ten-game win streak into the playoffs. But the way that the Indians got to this point was so much fun and that’s why I feel bad for you if you’re just jumping on right now. In order to get to the playoffs in baseball you have to struggle through those ups and downs and that’s exactly what these Indians did.
Many teams are able to get through it with superstar players who are just steady and great all the time like the Tigers have with Miguel Cabrera. But what’s been so fun to watch with the Tribe is how it’s literally a different guy every night. One night it might be the outstanding defensive outfield trio of Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, and Drew Stubbs who turn doubles into outs. Another night it’s Yan Gomes gunning down potential base-stealers. Many times it’s Brantley getting the clutch hit and looking smooth and confident as he does it. Sometimes it’s Jason Kipnis hustling in the field and on the base paths making plays happen. In some games it’s the energy, passion, and love for the game emanating from Nick Swisher that drives the team. Many times it’s been a starting rotation that is largely devoid of household names or anything you’d consider an ace that comes through with a masterful seven inning, two run performance when the team needed it most. In the second half of the season it’s been Ubaldo Jimenez looking every five nights like the best pitcher in baseball. Some games it’s the “Goon Squad” that comes in with their energy to fuel a win. A couple times it’s been old man Jason Giambi with a pinch-hit walk-off home run. And some days it’s Terry Francona pulling the right strings.
And that’s why I love this team so much. Sure it was a blast to root for those 90’s teams with their seven All-Stars or whatever it was, but there’s something almost more fulfilling about being a fan of this year’s team. They’ve really embraced the city and play like representatives of Cleveland. They aren’t special in special in the eyes of most people from the outside who don’t understand what there is to like about this team and city. But when you’re in it and invested in it, you see the true potential and you get wrapped up in the passion of this team and city that is coalescing into one heartbeat. The 2013 Indians are Cleveland.
I never thought that a baseball team could replace a 2-2 Browns team in the forefront of my consciousness but they’ve done it. There’s nothing like playoff baseball and we’ve got a game coming to Cleveland on Wednesday. That’s something to get excited about.
Now it’s only one game so this fun, magical ride could all be over Wednesday night. They could also continue their hot run and ride that momentum all the way to the World Series. Neither is implausible. That’s baseball. And even if this team only gets one playoff game it won’t change how much fun I’ve had with the 2013 Cleveland Indians. They’ve been a blast to root for from the first game of the season all the way into the playoffs. I can’t wait for Wednesday night. Playoff baseball in Cleveland, people!!!