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The Indians lost in the World Series, and I don’t feel like I thought I would

This feels different than I thought it would.

Without any context, if you would have told me at the beginning of the year the Indians would lose in extra innings in Game 7 of the World Series, this is not how I would have imagined I’d feel.

You think about all those pictures and memes of losing teams fans with their heads in their hands, tears in their eyes. Staring out into the abyss, trying to process the heartbreak they just witnessed play out over an agonizing 4+ hours. Walking out of the stadium staring at the shoes they’re barely managing to drag across the ground.

We were going to lose the biggest event in our sport, a do-or-die Game 7, by 1 run, at home, in 10 innings? Basically the most soul crushing loss a professional baseball team can possibly endure? That was gonna be us?

Hello darkness, my old friend.

I will admit, I did some staring and dragging myself last night. Like rubbing your thigh after getting hit with a pitch, you know you’re not supposed to do it, but it helps with the pain and that’s all you care about in the moment.

Like it was queued up on a playlist, I was almost immediately surrounded by a raucus chorus of Go Cubs Go in the bleachers following the final out. I stood there a while and listened. And watched. And waited.

I wasn’t anything at that point. I wasn’t mad, sad, depressed, angry, anything. I was simply there, existing in my body, watching a team and a fanbase celebrate the most crushing defeat I can remember experiencing as a fan. I was waiting for that darkness that I expected I would feel.

Funny thing – it never came.

Of course I was sad we lost. If I could choose between winning and losing Game 7 of the World Series, I’d obviously pick the former. But I didn’t feel that crippling depression that I thought I would. It was a weird feeling of vindicaton, that we did the best we could with the hand we were dealt.

We were without two of our top three starting pitchers and our left fielder. We weren’t supposed to win the ALDS. We swept the Red Sox. We weren’t supposed to win the ALCS. We did, on the shoulders of a 24-year-old rookie pitcher with 11 major league innings under his belt. We weren’t supposed to compete with the Cubs. We went up 3-1 and won two games at Wrigley Field. We had one of the best pitchers in baseball throwing for us in Game 7, with a fully rested bullpen. Our veteran platoon outfielder who led the league in stolen bases, tied the game with a two run homer in the 8th inning off the hardest thrower in baseball.

Then it rained.

Then we lost.

I love baseball.

I felt a lot of things immedately after the game, and I feel a lot of things now. Misery isn’t one of them.

Also I certainly didn’t feel embarassed, like some people are trying to tell us we should feel because we let Cubs fans into our stadium. This is a team with one of the largest fanbases in baseball, from the third largest city in the country, with the richest suburbs in the Midwest, playing for their first World Series in 108 years.

This series could have been played on fucking Mars and it would have been impossible to find a hotel room. I have a hard time imaginging it would have been any different had 4 games been played in Toronto or Arlington or Baltimore.

(I had mostly good experiences with Cubs fans during this whole thing. There were some jackasses, sure (comes with the territory – season tickets in the bleachers), but for the most part they were cordial and respectful. I shook hands with the old men sitting in front of us last night and told them to enjoy it when I left.  I don’t think I’ve ever shook hands with an opposing fan after a game, especially not after his team just beat mine to win a championship.)


So why then, these feelings of completion and finality instead of depression and sadness?

It’s like in Fantasy Football when you’re strugging to decide who to play that week. You set a lineup with some regret, the games play out, and you lose. But even if you had played the guys you decided to bench, you would have lost anyway. There’s literally nothing else you could have done. There’s a weird sense of acceptance after those types of weeks. Not so much the weeks when you leave a guy on your bench that puts up 30 points.

The Indians didn’t leave any 30 point scorers on their bench.

They exhaused all options. The over-worked starting pitching staff and, consequentially, the over-worked bullpen finally caught up to them at the worst possible time. Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller gave up 6 runs. David Ross hit a homer off Andrew Miller. That’s when you know it’s not your night.

You had your ace taking the mound or Game 7 of the World Series at home, with your bullpen fully rested. Previous events caused that matchup to not turn out the way we wanted. Nothing more we could have done.

Tito did the abosolute best he could with the hand we were dealt. He got the most out of every single player. He almost pulled off the impossibe. But the impossible is called the impossible for a reason.

Looking towards next year helps quite a bit too. It’s not like we pulled off some blockbuster trades at the deadline to pick up rentals to “go for it” like so many teams do. We went for it, but on our terms. Our core is locked up. Our pitching staff will be healthy. Anything you get out of Michael Brantley is a bonus. Young guys have another year under their belts, and everybody has the experience of a deep postseason run. You have no glaring holes to fill. Next year has a chance to be what this year could have been. And the year after that. And the year after that.

I’m excited to watch a team next year that knows they can get to the World Series.


We all knew the 3-1 jokes would come early and often if we ended up losing to the Cubs. So far, spot on. They don’t really phase me for two reasons.

One, they’re not accurate. I understand the people slinging the jokes aren’t necessarily worried about accuracy, but when you say the Indians blew a 3-1 lead, that’s just not right. The Indians operated at capacity for all 7 games. That’s all they had. The Cubs came back from a 3-1 deficit. That’s accurate. Not all comebacks by one team are blown opportunities by the other.

And two, if they really do believe the Tribe blew a 3-1 lead, that’s actually a huge compliment to the Cavs. If you’re gonna say the situations are the same, than you’re comparing our basketball team to a baseball team that just put together one of the greatest seasons in baseball history. And they’re poised to do it again and again for, oh, about a decade.

I’ll take that as a Cavs fan.


Maybe I’m still numb, and this loss will hit me in the coming days or weeks. It’s possible. But I’m enjoying this little bit of clarity and optimism while it lasts.

Gonna go sleep for three straight weeks and rev up the Cavs engine.

 

Hell of a season.

 

KEEP THE CHIEF

 

Finding a silver lining about Joe West being behind the dish tonight

westadam

Joe West has been doing this for quite some time.

The 64-year-old from Greenville, North Carolina made his major league debut back in 1976 and joined the National League staff full time just two years later. He’s currently finishing up his MLB-record 39th season, making him the most tenured umpire in the game today.

Tonight, for Game 6 of the 2016 World Series, he’ll toss his cup on, strap up his shinguards and squat behind home plate for what will surely be upwards of 4 hours.

It’s probably going to suck.

West has a pretty well earned reputation for being a “look at me” umpire. You know, one of the guys in blue that thinks the fans in the stands came to the game that night in hopes of being filled with wonder and astonishment at their ability to interpret and execute the rules of Major League Baseball. Like little boys in their back yard have their dads throw fastball after fastball on the outisde corner so they can practice their punch out in their youth medium light blue polos and dark gray slacks.

westpap

One would assume that, on the biggest stage possible, with one of the most storied matchups in recent memory, this reputation will be on full display.

All we can do is hope that it’ll suck just a little less for the Indians than it does for the Cubs. Here’s a few reasons why that could happen.


Josh Tomlin & Jake Arrieta career numbers with West

While neither pitcher has an enormous sample size, here’s their career numbers when Joe West is behind the dish:

westcareer

Not great to the naked eye. While Tomlin has surrendered two less hits than Arrieta and has a better WHIP, he’s given up a whopping 5 home runs in just over 13 innings on the mound.

Because I’m incredibly nervous for tonight and also I hate myself, I went a little deeper and looked at the game logs from each pitcher’s two starts. Tomlin’s start in September 2010 saw him surrender 3 runs in 6 IP. The good news is that he didn’t give up his first run in that game until Mike Napoli, of all people, took him yard in the bottom of the 5th inning. His other start with West behind the plate was in 2011. 4 earned in 6.2 innings. But again, he didn’t give up a run in that one until the bottom of the 6th.

Shorter version for Arrieta:

2010 – 1 ER in 6.1 IP,  run scored on a single in the 2nd inning

2015 – 3 R 2 ER in 6.2 IP, first run scored on a ground out in the 2nd inning.

What does this mean? Probably nothing. But as we’ve seen in these playoffs, if we get a lead early, our bullpen arms can come in and turn a 9 inning game into a 4 or 5 inning game. Tomlin has been able to last that long without giving up a run with Joe West as his umpire in the past. Jake Arrieta hasn’t.

Recent history between Joe Maddon and West

Back on September 12th, Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks lost a no-hit bid when he gave up a solo dinger to Cardinals outfielderJeremy Hazelbaker to lead off the bottom of the 9th inning. When the Cubs infielders huddled up to console him/buy time for Aroldis Chapman to get loose in the pen, Joe West promptly broke it up. Maddon did not like that.

Turns out Cubs legend Kerry Wood did not like that either.

Now all this isn’t to say Tito hasn’t had a spat or two with West himself. In fact, just over a month before the video above, Joe gave Terry the heave-ho after voicing his displeasure about a check swing call.

Let’s just hope that Maddon tiff is fresh in Joe’s mind tonight and that he forgets everything negative that Tito has ever said about him and remembers how great of a story it would be if the Indians won and that he could be the guy that denied the mighty Cubs their first World Series title since 1908.

Cubs arguing balls & strikes vs cool temparment of Tomlin

Look, if Tomlin didn’t bat an eye at John Hirschbeck’s “strikezone” during his Game 3 start last Friday, there’s absolutely nothing West can do to get under his skin. The entire Indians team is pretty good about keeping their wits about them when calls don’t go their way.

The Cubs hitters aren’t nearly as bad as the Blue Jays, who incredibly have never had three strikes thrown to them in the same at bat in any of their careers, or the Red Sox of the previous two rounds. But Lester and Lackey are both pretty bad on the mound, so maybe that’s worn on the boys in blue a bit, and another frustrating game at the dish for the Cubbies might turn some of those stares into words.

That one…might be grasping at straws.

West calls less strikes than almost every other umpire

This hurts Josh Tomlin, but it hurts Jake Arrieta more.

Tomlin is known for his control, as evidenced by his league-leading 1.03 walks per 9 innings and 2.8 BB%. He gets squeezed and maybe walks 2 or 3 guys.

Arrieta had the 7th worst BB% among qualified pitchers at 9.6%, and the 10th worst BB/9 at 3.47. You’re talking about maybe walking 4 or 5 guys now if he struggles with the strike zone, opening things up for the Tribe to get those couple runs they need for the pen to take it home.

Not that he needs it, but this also favors Andrew Miller over Aroldis Chapman

For the same reasons above, just not as extreme. Miller’s 3.3 BB% was second best among relievers, while Chapman’s 8.1% is slightly below average, but a vast improvement over his career mark of 11.6%.

Cowboy Joe is a musician, musicians live rock-and-roll lifestyles, would enjoy a certain kind of party

Bottom of the 8th, Chapman on the mound, tie game, Mike Napoli walks to the dish, whispers into Joe West’s ear, works the count to 3-0, Chapman grooves a fastball, World Series.

Extend the invite, Mike.

BONUS – Country music star (blech) Hunter Hayes is singing the national anthem tonight. Joe West makes country music. I’ll polish all the apples in the land if it gets us a ring.

NOT SO BONUS – In a September 2012 review, music blog Long After Dark said, “Blue Cowboy (West’s first album) easily ranks with Ron Artest and Carl Lewis as one of the worst albums that a sports figure has cut … ever. I can say that I managed to make it through the record, although it was not easy.”

 

That last part may or may not have been copied and pasted directly from Wikipedia but I just wrote 1100 words about Joe West. We need to win this damn thing already.

 

KEEP THE CHIEF

Tribe takes Game 3 despite John Hirschbeck’s best efforts, other WS thoughts

Well that was harder than it should have been.

Despite home plate umpire John Hirschbeck’s best efforts, the Indians won Game 3 of the World Series last night 1-0 to take a 2-1 series lead. The last Tribe team to go up 2-1 in the World Series?  The fellas of 1948. Maybe you’ve heard of them.

Per @IndiansUmp, Hirschbeck blew 7 ball/strike calls last night. All seven went against the Indians. Here’s a few highlights:

I’m not entirely sure what I would have done if we didn’t win that game, but it wouldn’t have been good. Thank god it was Tomlin out there, Trevor Bauer might have spontaneously combusted right in front of our eyes if he got consistently hosed like that. Our boys beat the Cubs and John Hirschbeck last night.

Some other thoughts:

  • Example number 12,983 in these playoffs of Tito being smarter than me? Pulling Tomlin at 58 pitches before the Cubs got a third crack at him. I didn’t agree with it at the time, at all. He was rolling. But of course, not only did it obviously work out for the game last night, he’ll have plenty in the tank for his potential game 6 start and Chicago didn’t have the chance to get any sort of momentum against him going forward.
  • Speaking of Tomlin, great piece from Anthony Castrovince on his start and his parents being there for it here. Must read if you enjoy happiness and trying to hide the fact that you’re crying from everyone around you.
  • I don’t want to hear shit from ANYONE when Bryan Shaw gives up 4 runs in the 7th inning on a Tuesday in June next year. He defeated the mighty Kyle Schwarber.
  • Jason Kipnis would be on the DL if this was the regular season. You can see him laboring whenever he has to run the bases.
  • I’m honest to god stunned when a hitter puts the ball in play against Miller or Allen.
  • Tito confirmed Trevor Bauer will throw tomorrow in Game 5. I thought a combination of Salazar and Merritt might work out nicely given how different they are as pitchers, but hopefully Bauer will reward Tito’s confidence in him. See first bullet point.
  • Two more wins and we win the World Series. Corey Kluber has two starts left.

KEEP THE CHIEF