Sunday, November 6, 2016

Tribe gives Cleveland a reason to be proud

First thing's first. 

This isn't a moral victory post, or some sad epitaph talking about how glad I am the Indians made the World Series, by golly. I'm very unhappy the Tribe now stands on the wrong side of history, in particular the fact they, dare I say it, blew a 3-1 lead to catapult Cubs Nation into conniptions of curse-breaking joy.
A moment of joy

There's no participant ribbon here, folks. Fox could should me another hundred little old ladies in blue and white, and I still wouldn't have felt sorry if the Indians had completed their Game 7 comeback.

Still, those uglier feelings can't take away how proud I am of this 2016 Indians squad, blown series lead and all. Here was a roster hamstrung by injuries to the point where the Tribe's own beat writer called the playoffs over before they'd even begun. A franchise with a payroll dwarfed by not just the "lovable" Northsiders, but by their ALDS and ALCS opponents as well.

The 2016 Tribe, put very simply, was fun, delivering some of the most exciting moments I've every witnessed as a Cleveland sports fan. Think Tyler Naquin rocking out after his walk-off inside-the -park homer against Toronto. Think Adam Miller acting as a lanky angel of death against opposing batters. Think Tito Francona cobbling together a playoff gameplan that squeezed every ounce of talent out of what he had available.

Ultimately, the Cubs got hot and the Indians ran out of bodies. I can't get mad at Miller, Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin for succumbing to workload and a murderous Cubs' lineup. I cannot even get upset with Bryan Shaw for taking the "L" after a momentum-sapping rain delay. Maybe I can be little perturbed at Mike Napoli for not hitting his weight during the post-season, but let's not go there now.

Even when the Tribe looked dead during the deciding game, they still almost shocked the world. Rajai Davis's eight-inning home run wasn't enough, but the team's comeback in the highest of high-pressure situations somehow makes me feel better about the depressing finish.

A part of that attitude stems from the Cavs winning in June - without that to hold onto, this column probably doesn't get written  - but it was gratifying to see the Indians not skulk quietly away into the night, as so many Cleveland teams have before them.

You could also say the Indians are ahead of schedule, what with the pitching injuries and the year-long absence of Michael Brantley. The Tribe's young hitting core will return next year, as will Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco. Given baseball's volatile nature and how freaking hard it is to reach the sport's pinnacle, there are no guarantees the team will be in this position again. Even so, the Indians gave fans more than they could ask for this post-season, and that is a joy in and of itself.