What? Over? Did you say “over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Even with a dismal record of 55-73, despite losing 9 straight series, even after enduring the pain of losing 30 of the last 40 games, is there still hope that the Cleveland Indians can produce an exciting finish to the season?
With a favorable remaining schedule in terms of competition the Indians have an opportunity to be a key cog in the 2012 postseason chase. Of their final 34 games, 21 are against teams chasing a playoff spot including 12 games remaining against the current division leading Rangers (6 games) and White Sox (6) and another nine against current wild card teams Oakland A’s (3) and Detroit Tigers (6).
The Indians can continue down the same path that they’ve been on over the past month and continue to endure long losing streaks, play with little energy, and attempt to pad individual statistics or they can attempt to be the 2011 Baltimore Orioles and become a thorn in the side of each team down the stretch. Hopefully, we will continue to see the team fight as they did against the Yankees. Even in losing two of three to New York, the Tribe made the Yankees sweat and had the tying run in scoring position in one loss and at the plate in the other.
Last season, the Baltimore Orioles were stuck in the same bleak position as the Indians are this year. On August 26th they were 52-77 and on their way to another dismal 90-loss season. Rather than bring up a ton of kids from the minors and treat the month of September as a training ground or as a way to improve draft position, Buck Showalter and the Orioles chose to fight to the finish.
Anyone who watched the Baltimore Orioles down the stretch can attest that September baseball can be a lot of fun especially if your team embraces the role of spoiler and has his team playing to win every night and treats each and every series as a playoff series. Over the final five weeks of 2011 the Orioles played 28 games against playoff contenders and finished 16-12. They went 4-4 against the Yankees, 3-3 against the Rays, 5-2 against the Red Sox, 2-1 against the Angels, and 2-2 against the Tigers.
The Orioles season culminated in playing a prominent role in what is possibly the greatest night in baseball history as their comeback victory to defeat the Red Sox opened the door for the Tampa Bay Rays to win the wild card in walk-off fashion on an Evan Longoria home run.
By the end of September everyone in baseball had come to know the name Robert Andino. The Orioles celebration after the game showed the joy and excitement of a group of men who had finished the season by accomplishing something, even if it was only to spoil the Red Sox’ season. But it could be argued that the Orioles had a come together moment down the stretch last season that has carried over deep into the 2012 season. In much the same way we can certainly hope that a competitive finish for Manny Acta and the Indians can carry over long into the 2013 season.