I STILL CAN'T DIE IN PEACE, BUT THE 2007 INDIANS CAN.
With apologies to Bill Simmons -- no, wait a minute! No apologies to Mr. Butt-Buddies-With-Boston -- I still can't die in peace. And neither can you, nor can this blog, because I have resurrected it. I chose tonight, this moment, from my new digs in Arizona, to end my blogging hiatus because after completing the five-step grieving period (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance), I think I have finally finished mourning the death of the Cleveland Indians' 2007 season. I have decided the most dignified way to do that is to deliver the eulogy. So, on behalf of Tribe nation, here it goes:
Friends, we are all gathered here this evening to remember our good friend, the 2007 installment of our beloved Cleveland Indians. I'm honored to be in front of you tonight, though I know the last couple of weeks have been particulary difficult. I've heard from many of you that you've had trouble sleeping. You see Joel Skinner's stop sign, Kenny Lofton's subsequent freeze frame rounding third base, J.D. Drew's grand slam and other horrible images as you shut your weary eyes. Friends, it's time, hard as it may be, to forget these images and remember some others.
First, remember the scene at Yankee Stadium after Joe Borowski closed out Game 4 for a 3-1 series win. Remember Trot Nixon's bloop hit and Franklin Gutierrez's no-doubter in Game 2 of the ALCS at Fenway to put an exclamation point on the inning. Remember Tom Mastny's 1-2-3 10th inning in the same game. Remember our second mascot, the Canadian soldier, and his assault on Joba Chamberlain. Remember Pronk's game-winner (but only if you can manage to forget that he did bubkus in the playoffs after that.) Remember the 12-3 rout, the clutch double-plays, and Paul Byrd's double-feature of great performances. Don't you dare forget how good it felt to see Kenny Lofton take a curtain call after his home run in Game 3.
Go back to the regular season. Remember how happy you were when Rafael Betancourt fired a third strike to clinch the division, ending a six-year playoff and division-championship drought. Likewise, think back to Casey Blake's walkoff homers in September, particularly against Detroit. Recall the emergence of Asdrubal Cabrera and Jensen Lewis, who both were integral in making the season as long as it was. Think about how Fausto Carmona emerged from Day 1 as an up-and-coming Pedro Martinez, and we didn't even miss Jeremy Sowers.
Remember the unlikely comeback against Detroit at the Jake in early June, ended on a David Delucci single up the middle. Reflect on all of the come-from-behind wins, making us all nostalgic for 1995.
Think about how hard you laughed at "I'm dreaming of a white home opener," how pissed off you were at how MLB screwed the organization in the makeup of those games with Seattle and how much you ended up not caring because the good guys took three out of a four of that series anyway.
Smile at the "Major League" jokes made when the Tribe played its their first game in the home whites in Milwaukee.
Now, if you're feeling any better, let me offer a little bit of perspective. Most of you wanted to "Trade Shapiro" in 2002 (that's for you, Proto), and now you can't stop singing his praises. Only the most vicious malcontents of you still don't like Eric Wedge. Most of you are out campaigning for him to win Manager of the Year from the AP, even though he already won it from The Sporting News. In 2003, when the Indians might as well have hung up a sign in front of the ballpark saying, "We're rebuilding. Come see us in a couple of years," they dropped 94 games, struggled to score 600 runs, and the most potent hitters were Jody Gerut and Matt Lawton. This team that we remember today fared better than the 2005 installment, who choked against Tampa Bay and the White Sox (thanks for making it clear, Ozzie Guillen). The 2007ers blew away the 2006ers, except maybe for Hafner's stats. At least in '07, we could pull out the close ones. In '07, we returned to the playoffs, and it felt so good just to be watching October baseball again and truly caring about the outcome.
Remember the monniker "The Jake." After Jacobs Field is renamed, you'll eventually feel odd if you keep calling it that.
Finally, I offer you hope. Byrd, whose HGH use to combat an injury shouldn't bother you anymore than Rafael Betancourt's did, is back. JoeBo, who gives us what Wickman gave us without all the fat jokes, will be back, too. The young arms--Rafael Perez, Carmona, et al.--will all be back. C.C. still has another year left on the contract, and even though some of you might want to run him out of town because he couldn't match up with Josh Beckett, Sabathia still might win the Cy Young. Grady won a gold glove, Victor had an M.V.P.-type year, Peralta proved he can hit under pressure--and against good pithcing. All of your other favorites, with the probable exception of Lofton, will be back in 2008 with a massive-sized chip on their shoulders.
We're back. We're on top of the division. We're there to stay. Things aren't bad. They're not championship-good, yet, but I don't think any of us expected that. The 2007 Indians are gone, a memory. Like a relationship that ended badly but had so many great memories, let's put the snapshots of the seaosn on our mantels and...*sigh*..move on.
This year, it wasn't meant to be, but one year, the ring will come. Our friend 2007 was a good year. If you didn't have fun, you weren't paying attention.