After winning their 63rd game of the season on Sunday, the Indians ended any possibility of losing 100 games in 2012. It might not seem like that big of a deal, after all the Indians are headed towards the finish line of an absolutely unwatchable season. But avoiding the 100 loss mark serves as a moral victory of sorts. Allow me to explain.
When it comes to Major League Baseball, there are five different levels in terms of measuring a team’s success in a given season, give or take. Depending on your opinion, you could categorize a team’s season in one of the following ways:
- 1. Complete success: World Series champ or pulled off a season no one expected.
- 2. Overachiever: Made the playoffs or close to it when no one expected it.
- 3. Par for the course: Did about what everyone expected with no real surprises throughout the season.
- 4. Disappointing underachievement: Finished below .500 because things didn’t work and/or injuries played a major role.
- 5. Complete and total failure: Everything that could go wrong did go wrong, nothing worked the way it was supposed to, finished with 100 losses or as a preseason juggernaut that missed the playoffs all together.
Now, while the Indians’ season falls somewhere in between levels 4 and 5 (I’m sure most fans are so frustrated that they’d want to throw them in a level 6 that doesn’t even exist in this scenario), avoiding the 100 loss mark helps push things a bit closer to level 4, but just barely.
The 100-loss mark has a strange effect on how we perceive a baseball team. After all, you have to be pretty bad to lose 100 games in a 162-game season. When a team accomplishes the feat, it’s usually the result of an impressive level of ineptitude. But, somehow find a way to lose 99 games and things are perceived to be not as bad.
It’s kind of like when a store puts something on sale for $9.99. Essentially, you’re still paying $10, but for some reason you feel better about buying it. It’s the same way with a baseball team. If the Indians had found a way to lose 100 games this year, we all would have remembered this as the season the Indians were supposed to win the division, but managed to finish in last place with 100 losses. It also would have been their first 100-loss season since 1991. If they finish with 95, 96, or somehow even 99 losses, we’ll simply remember this as another bad season that didn’t go quite the way we had planned.
Of course, that doesn’t make the sting of this season’s failures any easier to swallow. We all expected the Indians to compete with the Tigers for the AL Central crown. Unfortunately, the White Sox didn’t get that memo and things just didn’t work out as planned. We can sit here all day arguing who’s to blame and who should be fired, released, or traded away for ten cents on the quarter (do the Indians have any dollar bills?), but the fact of the matter is that for as bad as it has been it still could have found a way to be worse. I know, I’m shocked too.
Losing 100 games would have been devastating punch to the gut for everyone involved: the players, the fans, and most of all, the ownership. Say what you will about the Dolans and some of the seasons that the Indians have slumped through under their watch, but they have never lost 100 games during their regime. They came close in 2009 when they lost 97, but given how fan sentiment has turned against them of late and one can’t help but feel 100 losses would have been the nail in the coffin.
The season ends on the October 3rd. Fans would have been filing their sports divorce papers on the 4th and moving in with a new MLB team into a two bedroom loft on the East Side by the 5th. Although, one could argue losing 90-plus games in three of the past four seasons may be its own death knell of sorts. I wonder if Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips can cover a renters deposit.
That’s the power of the 100-loss season. It’s another number in a game the centers around sacred numbers. Just like the numbers 61, 56, and .400 mean something in baseball, so does 100. While the former are associated with success and out of this world performance, 100 sets the bar for disappointment and failure.
So, say what you want about the 2012 Indians. You can call them bums. You can call them cheaply assembled talent. You can even call them underachievers. You might be right on all accounts. But, at least you can’t say they lost 100 games. So, thank god for small miracles!