Sunday, October 21, 2007

Game Seven
Even before the game started, I had a quote in my head that I thought I would use if the Indians were eliminated tonight by the Red Sox.

It was something Mrs. Smith, my first grade teacher, said after we watched a film strip of Casey at the Bat. After Mighty Casey struck out, Mrs. Smith turned to the class and said, "Sometimes, things don't turn out the way we want them to."

Fans wanted to believe that this Indians team was different. That it was, in some way, better prepared for the postseason than the hard-hitting playoff teams of the 1990s. Even I found myself believing late in the season -- believing the Indians would follow the Red Sox and White Sox in breaking the championship drought.

And let's be clear: It's a drought, not a curse.

The Indians deserved to lose this series. Thanks to Jake Westbrook and Paul Byrd, they staked themselves a 3-1 series lead, and had C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona going in the next two games, one of which was at home.

But the Indians choked under the pressure. I'm not writing that to be mean. But the reality is the Indians were outscored 30-5 in the series' last three games. You can't tell me it was all the Red Sox doing.

Jake Westbrook wasn't perfect, but he was gritty and gave his team a chance in Game 7. I won't pile on Joel Skinner and Casey Blake. Blake did everything right for six games, and had the pitching staff done what it was supposed to, Blake would not have been in the position he was in. He's not blameless, and neither is the third base coach, who made one of the strangest decisions I have ever seen.

But the series was the Indians to win in the fifth and sixth games. It wasn't one guy, but different guys failing at the worst possible time. The Indians lost to the Red Sox because the Sox were better.

- It will be tough to stomach anyone writing about what "strides" the Indians made this season. Two 19-game winners, a closer with 45 saves, and 96 wins is nice. But the truth is this: When the opportunity is there, in life and in baseball, you have to take advantage because you never know if it will come up again.

Do you realize the Marlins won the World Series in 1997, gutted the team, rebuilt and won again in 2003, while the Indians haven't been back?

It's not fair to judge this season as a failure, but it's hard to see when the stars will allign again like they did this season.

Maybe this is the start of something. Or maybe it's the end. Either way, it was a great regular season that, unfortunately, ended like all the others.

And once again, I'm reminded that things don't always turn out the way we want them to.

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1 Comments:

At 5:48 AM , Anonymous Erik said...

Boston was the better team with more experience. If the Indians had lost Game 4, won Game 5, then lost the last two at Fenway, I don't think it would hurt as much. We could just chalk it up to Boston having homefield advantage.
But now, the stigma of choking away a 3-1 lead is forever attached to the 2007 Indians.

What sticks in my craw isn't the losses themselves, but how they happened. Seemingly overnight, the Indians went from a tough, grind-it-out team to a mass of quivering Jell-O. Kenny Lofton, one of the big reasons the Indians got even this far, was also one of the key players in the collapse.

I have to point this out: Eric Wedge now has two of the biggest choke jobs in Indians history on his resume. It might not be his fault, but blame tends to find its way to the manager.

The last-week collapse in '05 and an ALCS meltdown have now occurred on Wedge's watch. It might be inexperience more than anything else, but anyone who doesn't see a trend developing isn't watching the same team I'm watching. Once again, leaders failed to step up when the Indians needed them the most.

 

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