The pasta was delicious at La Piazza el forno in historic old downtown Glendale, Ariz., an establishment owned by Justin Piazza, a relative to Mike Piazza, the former Dodgers/Mets catcher now serving as manager of Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic.
Then, out of nowhere, somebody asked a question: “How close are we to seeing an all-Ohio World Series?”
After choking on the linguine, I stopped to think about the intriguing possibility: the Cincinnati Reds against the Cleveland Indians in a World Series, two cities 250 miles apart.
It has never happened, hardly ever even close. The closest probably was 1995. It would have been reality if the Reds could have beaten the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series, but the Braves knocked them out in four straight. That would have placed the Reds against the Indians in the World Series. Instead, the Braves defeated the Indians.
So when will it happen? The purists tend to say, “Probably the nth of never,” but it might be closer than anybody believes.
After a decade of finishing under .500 for nine straight seasons – from 2001 through 2009 — the Reds are back as a relevant entity. They’ve won the National League Central two of the last three years.
And there are experts throughout the country who believe this could be the year the Reds make it back to the World Series for the first time since 1990.
The ’95 World Series season was the beginning of five straight American League Central championships and they were back in the World Series in 1997, losing to the Florida Marlins.
They also won division titles in 2001 and 2007 and although they had a losing record (80-82) in 2011, they finished second.
They totally regressed last year, losing 94 games, but for 2013 they hired a new manager (Terry Francona) and spent money on player acquisitions.
Is it enough to get back to the World Series?
When the 2013 season begins, the Indians will have new faces in nearly half of their 40-man roster spots.
It all began last December when the Tribe sold their sports network for close to $250 million.
And that’s when the spending began.
The Tribe signed right-handed pitcher Brett Myers to a one-year, $7 million deal. They signed first baseman/DH Mark Reynolds to a one-year, $6 million deal. They signed outfielder Nick Swisher to a four-year, $56 million deal. They signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a four-year, $48 million deal. They signed DH Jason Giambi to a one-year, $750,000 deal.
And they traded for outfielder Drew Stubbs from the Cincinnati Reds.
So as the Indians have spent nearly $120 million on free agents, it might be that the Tribe is serious, with a capital ‘S.’
It may be difficult for the Indians to pass the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox won’t be easy, either. But even if the money spent in the offseason isn’t quite enough, there is always the wild card.
Once a team makes the playoffs, with its short series, wild things happen — wild-card teams even get to and win the World Series.
A Cincinnati-Cleveland World Series? Maybe it shouldn’t cause a person to choke on their pasta after all.