Preparing Myself for Playoff Baseball

The Snowdens of Yesteryear

The Snowdens of Yesteryear

I’ve joked throughout the year that Cleveland’s luck would be to field a great, fun, competitive baseball team that even went so far as to make the AL Wild Card game, only to come up agonizingly short.  Following a script we’ve all read before, they’d lose the play-in game in some nut-punching fashion, fans would argue about whether or not the team had “REALLY made the playoffs”, in-fighting and finger-pointing would begin, and we’d once again be back where we always seem to get with this baseball team.  A good story, but not good enough.  A smart front office, but not smart enough.  Just not enough, never has been and never will be.

All this terrible prognostication was a funny joke to tell because of course it wasn’t really going to happen.  Not the nut-punching part—god knows that would happen—but the making the playoffs part. I pegged the Indians as an 83 win team coming into the season, and that was considerably more generous than most in the national media.  So yes, they’ll probably screw up their Wild Card game was on-par with the Browns hypothetically losing the AFC Championship game this season: a thought experiment for the mildly perverse and not a whole lot more.

Welp.

The Indians won 92 games, the fourth most in the American League, and they’ll host the Wild Card game on Wednesday night.  I’m not sure if Cleveland has fully infected me yet or not, but the joy of making the playoffs has already largely been offset with the incipient fear of losing in the playoffs.  Losing meaningless games is hard on the soul, as we’ve learned over the last five years; but losing meaningful games can be hard on the heart—especially for towns like ours, where the infrequency of these opportunities makes coming up short all the more crushing .

And let’s not mince words here: the Indians are likely to go home losers this season.  The odds are stacked against them, as they are for every team who makes the post-season tournament.

So why the hell am I so happy, in the face of all this gloom?

I don’t exactly know the answer to that, other than to say that what I remember most from that 2007 team isn’t how it all ended, but how it felt before it ended.  I remember the city dripping with baseball for two straight weeks.  I remember the Bug Game, when Fausto willed himself into a hero and Pronk walked off against the Evil Empire.  I remember Mark Shapiro, smiling that big, chicklet-toothed grin on national TV, sopping up the praise like an extra helping of gravy.  I remember Victor and Grady and C.C. and even that stupid Javid Delichaels out-making-platoon-bot.  Most of all, I remember our baseball mattering, in a way that it hasn’t since.

Until now, of course.

On Wednesday night, I’ll be in the same place I was in 2007.  I’ll wear red and I’ll cheer like a maniac and I’ll eat more nachos than is good for me.  And I’d like to think that for a little while, at least, I’ll recognize how much fun it is not to be joking anymore.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    Not just nachos. PLAYOFF nachos!

    I have to tell you. My brother’s such a jerk that he was breaking up the tickets for the WC game this morning and half-jokingly complained that there was no “loaded value” on the playoff tickets. I just laughed at him. I’m so excited.

  • Nice Marmot

    Well, then I guess there’s only one thing left to do….

  • Natedawg86

    Playoff Nachos – Pulled Pork, BBQ Sauce, Nacho Cheese and Jalepenos

  • http://www.cinpleweb.com/ stin4u

    Amen.

    My fiance and I are going to the game tomorrow. We had a convo about how we would react if they lost. She said she would cry, not surprising because she cried when they won the final game. I said I would just be happy that it happened. It’s like being that 65th team in the NCAA tournament. Sure, it’s the play in game, but you’re there and you have your shot. I’d rather be there than watching someone else be. If they lose it will suck, but it’s been a maddeningly pleasant and surprising season.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Tomorrow night could very well be Maddoning (hyuck hyuck).

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I was hoping for Texas something about Tampa Bay would make me nervous if I was an Indians fan. It’s either that or Salazar starting and no bonafide closer. I guess though in a way if Salazar doesn’t do his job having a closer won’t matter. Either way I’m packed and headed to Boston to hopefully welcome the Indians to town.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    My thoughts have gone from “happy to make it” to “happy to make it…as long as we win on Wednesday” to “All we had to do was win a third of our games against DET…” to “the Rays? Welp, we’re done” (since moving to Florida in ’04, our Ohio teams have fared poorly against teams from this godforsaken swamp in big games/series) to “this whole Wild Card “series” is insulting b.s., we should be prepping for an actual series against the Sox right now”. My Cleveland Battered Fan Syndrome is in full effect.

    Oh, and I have visions of our newly-hyped Browns D making EJ Manuel look like the second coming of Randall Cunningham on Thursday night.

    CBFS: it’s real, and it’s powerful.

  • JK

    BUT WHAT ABOUT ATTENDANCE???????

  • mgbode

    flip that BBQ to a hot tomatillo salsa and you have deliciousness.

  • mgbode

    at least we get to face a team with more issues there than us? :)

  • ToxicToast

    RE: everyone freaking about Salazar starting. Ubaldo and Masterson are not options, for starters, due to just pitching and still not being healthy, respectively. Joe Maddon is well known for all-inclusive preparation to face any pitcher. If I’m honest, I think the fact that every Ray has a full breakdown of each our starting pitchers on iPad today would be really detrimental for either Kluber, Kazmir, or Mcallister. I don’t like their chances if the rays start to figure them out. Salazar is the one remaining pitcher who can beat hitters with his stuff even if they know what’s coming. He can do this.

  • mgbode

    I am surprisingly calm about the game. Happy to have Salazar starting, happy to get the Rays, happy to have playoff baseball and all the drama/nerves that go with it. I fully expect to win this game and then go take down Boston. Just a calm confidence heading into our next steps.

  • Harv 21

    Honestly, this feels way diff than, say, ’96-’00, when we all knew we’d be in the playoffs and often assumed we had a good shot at the WS. Doesn’t feel like ’07 either, with an ace and young stars and a lights-out pen.

    This feels like playing with the house money. If Giambi doesn’t go all superhero last week we’d be urinating on pics of Chris Perez and saying “9 of 10 ain’t nothing when your closer is a choker.” This wasn’t supposed to happen. So I’ll be happy hearing, finally, a full house roar for this likable bunch. And if they win tomorrow, be glad to take more house money.

  • nj0

    I’ve been surprisingly calm about every game we’ve played for the past two weeks or so. For whatever reason, I felt confident that we were playoff bound and now I feel confident that we’re going to win this one too. Seems preordained that Tito will get to come back to Boston. Not sure how it goes from there though.

  • nj0

    Who is freaking out? Honest question. Seems like most comments I’ve heard/read have been more like “we got here as a team, we’ll win this one as a team”.

  • nj0

    14 of 15 in the AL. 700K less than in 2007 and we didn’t exactly tear it up then.

  • theherd10

    I am as well. That could change by tomorrow at 7:55, of course, but this squad has played pressure-packed baseball for the past two weeks. I know, TB has, too, but I don’t know – having Terry Francona at the helm calms me a lot, too. And no comments about the ’07 postseason can be made without including the return of one Kenny Lofton to Cleveland. Probably my favorite part of that run.

  • http://www.cinpleweb.com/ stin4u

    I think next year will be a big year for attendance. I’m sure there was a large portion of the population that was sticking to their ‘prove it’ guns. Even if they lose tomorrow just making the appearance should do wonders for next year.

  • ToxicToast

    You ARE freaking out…..man. Just kidding. A lot of the friends and coworkers I talk to are totally scared about Salazar. So I thought maybe the hysteria was more widespread. Happy to be wrong though if it isn’t.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    NO SLEEP ‘TILL BROOKLYN!!!!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Hysteria was a great album!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Ship it up to Boston baby!

  • nj0

    Could be. I guess I mainly talk to people who follow the team pretty closely so they know how legit Salazar’s stuff is. I think people hear “rookie” and just think it must be a desperation thing.

  • nj0

    I remember thinking the same thing going into ’08. This team isn’t the Browns. They have to prove it every single season.

  • nj0

    Dropkicks, Def Leppard, Beasties? Remind me to never borrow any albums from you.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Why I got some 2 Live Crew and NWA too?

  • porckchop

    Ran my first marathon on Saturday.
    Spent Sunday convalescing on the couch watching the Browns and Indians win.
    And then something else happened but I can’t think what it… oh yeah!

    I GOT PLAYOFF TICKETS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Count me in the weirdly calm, accepting of whatever fate may come group. I’ve written this team off so many times this season, that I’m in a good place – until we get down 5 runs in the second and I’m stuck thinking about how I could have sold the tix for nearly 3 times face value – no wait I’m good. To steal from my namesake I feel exactly like Jack Burton after he takes the magic potion and is riding up the elevator to face Lo Pan. “Is anybody else warm?”

  • porckchop

    I’m in section 172 and I swear by god I’m getting Playoff Nachos, and at some point I’m standing up and doing my best Bob Wiley “I’m sailing!” impersonation and shouting “I’m eating Playoff Nachos!”

  • CleFan4Life

    I’m freaking out less about Salazar than I am about Cobb. I was hoping to see either Texas or at least see Price leave somewhat early and TB have to go to Cobb in that game. Cobb can be nasty when he’s on. Hopefully the bats are patient.

  • dwhit110

    The best part will be when the hot dog guy comes by after that and you get to add in Bob’s response to trying out diving… “Alright, hot dogs…”

  • Dan

    Anybody else got the intense music starting the tiebreaker game against the Yankees in Major League going through their head all day?

    Monty anything to add?

  • mgbode

    well, no chance at an all-Ohio WS now. might have to settle for beating down a yellow & black team from Pitt in 2 different sports.