Sunday, April 12, 2009

The problem with being so great
The window is never open that long.

The Indians may have thought they had a shot at the World Series every year in the mid-to-late 1990s, but in reality, the only real chance to win it all was in 1997.

The Florida Marlins' pitching that year really wasn't any better than Cleveland's. But the Tribe didn't get it done. When Edgar Renteria's single hit the outfield grass, the window of opportunity was slammed in the Indians' face. They have never gotten back to the Fall Classic, while the Marlins sold off all their stars, rebuilt and won it all again in 2003.

I bring up this rather frustrating memory because the Cavaliers have reached a point in their era where only a championship will satisfy.

Did you see the game today? The Celtics looked old and were beat up, missing several key players. The Cavaliers took them apart, and took joy in doing so.

The Celtics are the defending champions.

The Cavaliers' will have homecourt advantage through all but the NBA Finals (though that could change for sure in a few days). They are 39-1 at the Q.

LeBron James is in his prime. Delonte West and Mo Williams and Zydrunas Ilgauskas make up the best supporting cast he's had.

It's all set up. It's all there for the taking.

But it's not assured. Anyone who thinks otherwise just hasn't been around this city long enough. People who talk to me about the Cavaliers always bring up the Lakers.

I'll worry about the Lakers when and if the Cavaliers reach the finals. Until then, I'll be chewing on my fingernails waiting for something to go wrong.

Still, the truth is that the Cavaliers have one loss at home -- to the best in the West, the Lakers. The Lakers are the only team the Cavs haven't beaten this year.

But here's the reality: This year's squad is the best basketball team in Cleveland history. The Cavaliers have already reached the finals.

The only thing left for this franchise is the big one.

And if the Cavs don't do it this year, then when? Everything has lined up. Next year, who knows what will happen. LeBron's contract will be up after the 2010 season, and though I hope he'll stay in Ohio, I'm just as certain there are powerful people who don't want him here.

If James and Co. can't do it this year, it's hard to see it ever happening for the franchise. And frankly, the way the Browns and Indians are going, one wonders if Cleveland will ever have a better, or another, chance at a world title.

The window is only open for so long.



At 10:07 AM , Anonymous Erik said...

The Cavs will have this roster together for one more year at least, assuming Varejao is re-signed, and I think he will be. But agreed that it's virtually impossible to guess as to how long the window of opportunity will stay open for this team to win a title.

I'm just hoping I don't fall into the trap I did with the Indians of the '90s. I spent all my time waiting for that elusive championship, by the end of the decade, I forgot to enjoy the fact that we had winning baseball in this town. You want the ring, but you have to enjoy the ride, too.

The best news is that this Cavs team is set up for a title run better than any Cleveland team in our lifetime. The '95 Indians were dominant, but because of baseball's pre-ordained seeding of the time, they didn't have homefield advantage in any round of the playoffs, despite finishing with the best record in the majors.

The other two Cleveland teams to reach the championship round since then -- the '97 Indians and '07 Cavs -- were overachievers that beat superior teams to get as far as they got. The '07 Indians had the pitching to win it all, but lost homefield to the Red Sox on a tiebreak, and that cost them the ALCS ultimately.

This is the first time it appears we will have a Cleveland team as the top dog in a postseason, with top seeding and homecourt advantage throughout (provided they win one of the next two, obviously). No postseason run to a title is easy, but this is the first time it looks like a Cleveland team will have all its ducks in a row.


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