The Cleveland Indians have not played a single game in 2013 that matters, but team administrators have brought buzz back to the city. That alone took some doing for fans of a franchise that hasn’t won a World Series since 1948. At 65 years and counting, that’s a formidable losing streak and qualifies Indians supporters as “long suffering.”
Only the Chicago Cubs have gone longer than the Indians among baseball teams that have been alive that long and not won a Series. But perhaps there should be an asterisk next to the name Cubs because some say they have retired the trophy. It wasn’t terribly long ago, such as the early 2000s, when the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox were also members of the long suffering club. Ironically, former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is trying to become a hero all over again with the Cubs, and former Red Sox manager Terry Francona is trying to become a hero all over again with the Indians.
For perspective on how long the wait has been for the Indians, the Cleveland River hadn’t yet caught on fire, and Cleveland was never referred to as The Mistake By The Lake when the Indians won it all in 1948. Unlike the Cubs, Red Sox and White Sox, all three of which had gone more than four generations between titles, there are actually quite a few people living in Ohio who are old enough to remember those good old days. They may be older than Lake Erie, but they are around.
This off-season the Indians spent money, a lot of money, to acquire fresh faces and try to patch all of the holes in their lineup all at once. It’s not fore sure that they pulled it off, but there is no doubt the front office made big moves. The timing was good. The Detroit Tigers figure to be a lock to win the American League Central Division, but if everything breaks right for the Indians they can give them a run. On paper they are already better than the rest of the division–the White Sox, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals.
Some people may say that you either win or you lose, and if the Indians don’t make the playoffs they’re a failure. But I do think a front office deserves points for trying. Compare the mood in Cleveland with the mood in Miami. Indians fans have to be optimistic. They have to appreciate the effort made to win and win soon. Miami fans have to be pessimistic. All they see is an owner dumping salaries and discarding talented players.
It is possible that the Indians did not spend wisely, but they cut deals with free agents who look as if they can help the team in many ways. Already risking their credit rating to lure Nick Swisher, a popular figure in Ohio because of his roots, the Indians spent more to grab 2012 National League All-Star Michael Bourn, a speedy, multi-talented outfielder, after people in the sport thought they might be all done shopping for the year.
Will it work out for the Indians? Too soon to tell. It seems they have installed the right man at the helm in Francona. They have spent big to bring in some names. They have taken chances on other guys who could be big busts or big wins. You don’t win the World Series of Poker without gambling, taking a risk, or playing a bluff. You have to like the attitude the Indians front office is showing.
Already the year 1948 has been mentioned more in the last few months in Cleveland than in the last several years combined. Now really, few people that aren’t delusional believe that the Indians are going to win the World Series in 2013. But you won’t be able to find a fan who doesn’t believe that they are pointed in the right direction or that they won’t win quite a few more games than the 68 they won in 2012.