The Cleveland Indians are currently in the middle of a multiple team chase for one of two open playoff spots. It’s a nice change from how the past few seasons have come to a close. Since their magical 2007 run, the Indians have fallen on hard times. Losing records in four of the past five seasons, three 90-plus loss seasons, and more than a handful of high-profile exits had made the team insufferable to watch. It had become something of a masochistic endeavor to say the least.
Then everything changed. The Indians, typically one of the least aggressive teams in terms of offseason maneuvers, shocked the world with move after move and acquisition after acquisition. By the time the dust had settled the Indians roster had undergone a tremendous upgrade. Gone were the likes of Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Jack Hannahan, and Casey Kotchman in favor of Drew Stubbs, Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, and Ryan Raburn, among other.
The end result has yet to be determined. After all, there is still an entire month of the season left to play and a lot of questions still left to be answered. However, there is one question that we can begin to examine in greater detail. That question being – Has the 2013 season already been a success no matter how the ending plays out?
There are two ways of looking at the question. The first is in terms of the team’s record. Following last Sunday’s 3-1 win over the Twins, the Indians were 71-59. With 32 games left to play the Indians would only need to go 11-21 down the stretch in order to ensure themselves of a winning record. If they finish 21-11 in their final 32 games they would finish 92-70 and almost certainly in the playoffs.
But is that success? Most certainly. considering the goal from the start of the year is to be one of the few teams fortunate enough to make the playoffs. Getting into the tournament is the only way you can win a World Series and if you can do that, you have a shot for something great.
But what if this team falls short? What if they stumble down the stretch and fall short of a playoff birth? If that scenario plays out does that automatically mean the season was a failure? After all, if the playoffs began today, the Indians would be watching from their couches at home.
Most likely, it depends on where you came out on this team at the start of the season. If you felt that this was a playoff team with title aspirations you would probably feel a bit down and a bit angry that they didn’t do more. If you thought the Indians were destined to miss the playoffs and play the role of middling, fringe contender you’re probably not any worse for wear.
Because we like to think big when it comes to preseason aspirations, odds are most of us fall into that former category. Falling short of the playoffs will undoubtedly lead to weeks, if not months of scrutiny. It will lead to conversations about what might have been had the front office done this, that, or the other. Ultimately, these conversations will lead to brainstorming sessions about what needs to be done in the offseason in order to get the team over the hump.
That my friends can be viewed as a success. While there is still an attendance issue that shows no signs of rectifying itself anytime soon, they fact that the Indians have made fans care and has them talking about the Tribe as summer turns to fall is something to hang their hats on. Because this team is still in contention they have taken some of the attention usually reserved for the Browns, Buckeyes, and high school football. That can’t be discounted.
Yes, the process of transforming the Indians into a winner is taking time. Like most processes, change hasn’t happened instantly. The Indians are taking their time and building something organically that can be self-sustaining and not just a flash in the pan. But, getting the fans engaged even on the tiniest of levels is important in the grand scheme of things. Apathy is a death wish for any sports franchise and Indian fans certainly are not apathetic about this team.
Don’t get me wrong. Making the playoffs would be a huge accomplishment and would help accelerate the process. It would put them a year ahead of where their talent probably projects. Playoff baseball in 2013 will lead to more excitement and hopefully increased expectations and increased attendance in 2014. But even if they do come up short, they will be leaps and bounds ahead of where they were at any point over the five years prior. So when you look at 2013 objectively and consider it as a major building block in the foundation of what hopefully is to come, then 2013 has to be a success no matter what happens.