In all sports, there are teams and then there are Teams with a Capital T. Talent obviously counts when putting a team together, but when the intangibles are added to talent and you have the cohesiveness of a true team effort, look out. The Cleveland Indians have that kind of a Team this year.
When this season began in April, the Cleveland Indians were generally looked at as a team that is improving and one that could make some noise in the AL Central Division. Their main competitor was presumed to be the defending World Champion Kansas City Royals with the White Sox and Tigers figuring into the mix as well. In essence, it was largely viewed as a wide open division if the Royals faltered. Well, we know now how it unfolded with the Royals decidedly falling into the middle of the pack and never recovering.
Meanwhile, the White Sox imploded right out of the box, mired in controversy with the Adam LaRoche and his son debacle with Chris Sale tacking on a brutal assault on his own front office. The Tigers met with mediocrity as well, never putting anything together until the final weeks of the season when they made a last minute run at the final Wild Card spot only to be turned back by Toronto.
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The Indians Forge Their Own Path
But while all of this was happening, the Cleveland Indians were flying under the radar and winning. Not like the Cubs were, or even the Giants who had the best record in baseball through the first half. Instead they were winning like the Cleveland Indians and independent of the baseball world.
And in the interim, they were quietly putting a team together under the guidance of Terry Francona. But more importantly, when you look at that team nothing is bound to strike you. After Mike Napoli‘s 34 home runs, no one on the team even comes close.
Dig a little deeper and their .262 team batting average doesn’t impress either. But once again, it was good enough. So too was their pitching. With the possible exception of Corey Kluber, who rebounded nicely after a shaky start, it’s likely that your average baseball fan could not name the remaining starting staff.
But that may not matter anyway because the Indians have a lights out bullpen that is led by, okay I’ll say it, the best reliever in the game today in Andrew Miller.
In The Postseason, Intangibles Rule
Overachievers tend to amaze in the postseason. The Toronto Blue Jays, with all that right handed power, should drive Cleveland pitching nuts. And we can expect that 3-2 games are not likely. But the nature of the Indians is to find a way to overcome deficits by not panicking. In that way, they are much like their potential competitor in the World Series – the Chicago Cubs. They play the game with no fear, and you can’t teach that. And it’s another one of those intangibles that doesn’t appear in a box score.
Add to that the sudden recognition by the city of Cleveland (thank you Lebron) that they have a pretty good baseball team playing in October with crowds that are making up for all of the empty seats during the season. For the players, this has to be a subtle confirmation of what they have known all along.
There are games still needed to be played on the field, of course, and Toronto has a lineup that is packed with power and playoff experience. But Cleveland may have something else that can’t be measured with numbers alone. And they just might have one of those teams with a capital T this year that is capable of running the table.