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Sunday, October 17, 2021

The heartbreak of the 2016 Cleveland Indians

ARTURO PARDAVILA III [CC BY 2.0] / FLICKR
ARTURO PARDAVILA III [CC BY 2.0] / FLICKR
The Indians made it all the way to the World Series but came just short of winning it all  

After last Wednesday’s victory against the Atlanta Hawks, Lakers head coach Luke Walton drifted during the middle of a postgame presser to catch the score of the World Series Game 7 between the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs. After seeing that the Indians were down, he laughed and said with a smile “How’s that feel, Cleveland?” Walton was an assistant coach for the 2016 Warriors, who infamously blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Indians began the postseason in an an absolutely dominant fashion, in which they ran through the American League in eight games and eventually went up 3-1 against the Chicago Cubs, putting themselves only one win away from bringing another major sports title to Cleveland in the same calendar year. Unfortunately for the Indians, they melted down and let the Cubbies rattle off three straight to bring their first World Series back to Chicago since 1908. Congrats to Chicago, but Cleveland now enters its 68th year of the now-longest title drought in the MLB with no end in sight.

The Warriors can handle the self-deprecating humor about their meltdown in June. They had won in the prior year, they’re probably going to win this year and they will probably be favored again a year after that as well, but this meltdown has got to hurt for the Indians. Competitive balance in the MLB is much greater than in basketball, so the odds are definitely stacked against them to win the pennant once again with the current nucleus of players.

The Cubs could’ve handled defeat, as they are primed to become perennial contenders for the foreseeable future. They have an incredibly young and talented core that is paired with the ability to outspend any other team outside of New York and Los Angeles. But this is Cleveland. Forbes has it listed as the 27th wealthiest team in baseball, so the team’s needs are most likely not going to be met through this free-agent class.

Cleveland’s path to the World Series was incredibly unconventional this postseason. With the season-long absence of Michael Brantley, the midseason losses of starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, the Indians seemed doomed. Once the starting pitching fell apart, the Indian’s own beat writer, Paul Hoynes, exclaimed “On Sept. 17, the Indians were eliminated from serious postseason advancement before they even got there.” Well, he was wrong. Terry Francona brilliantly strung all the right tunes to get every last inch out of his guys, and they were one win away from completing the job, just one. When Rajai Davis homered in the 8th inning to tie the game at six in the 8th inning, it felt like the Indians were destined to stave off fate and finish the Cubs, but they came up short yet again.

The odds of the Indians getting this opportunity once again seems bleak. Their success will be incredibly tough to emulate because of the constantly changing circumstances in the world of baseball.

Cleveland had an incredible run in 2016, and while it might be premature to write them off once again just as Hoynes did in September, I find it difficult to believe that the Indian’s run of brilliance will resurface yet again.

 

Written by: Michael Wexler — sports@theaggie.org

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