What else can baseball fans do in January but dream of October? In You May Say I’m a Dreamer, the Outside Corner staff will imagine the route to a World Series in 2012 title for all 30 teams.
The very notion of a team from Cleveland winning a championship is one that only exists in dreams, but in 2012, that dream finally came true when the Indians were on the receiving end of several generations worth of good karma being visited upon them all at once.
That much criticized trade for Ubaldo Jimenez? Nobody’s criticizing it now, not after Jimenez pitched like the guy who posted a FIP of 3.67 in 2011 and not the guy who ended up with 4.68 ERA in 2011. After years and years of searching, the Tribe finally found their ace as Ubaldo not only carried an ERA just a hair north of 3.00 but managed to do so while leading the American League in strikeouts. It is a wonder what regaining two miles per hour on your nasty fastball can do, ain’t it?
But even with Jimenez’s resurgence, the real shocker was Kevin Slowey finally making good on his once lofty prospect status, giving the Indians a lethal 1-2-3 rotation when combined with Justin Masterson. And it certainly didn’t hurt to have to watch the Twins wipe some egg off their face in the process.
Thanks to their strong rotation, the Indians got out of the gate fast, yet the ever-doubting Cleveland natives failed to buy in. And who could blame them after what happened last year and, well, let’s be honest, the several decades before last year. Not even Asdrubal Cabrera replicating his out-of-nowhere All-Star campaign was enough to turn the hearts of the Indian faithful.
But you know what was enough? The fallen Indians of 2011 bouncing back to make good. Shin-Soo Choo recovered from his injury and arrest-plagued 2011 to regain All-Star form and stabilize the middle of the Cleveland lineup. In front of him, Grady Sizemore, almost as if to reward Indian management for never losing faith in him, managed to put his knee problems behind him, if only for one year, to be the 30-30 force of nature that he was before his body started to betray him. Grady put the Tribe on his back and carried them right past the Tigers and into the playoffs.
By the time the post-season started, the Indians were rolling like no other. They made short work of the Rangers in the ALDS before avenging their 2007 ALCS collapse by beating the Red Sox in seven games. That moment was just an appetizer for what was to unfold in the World Series that would go on to serve as a collective catharsis for the entire city of Cleveland. Their opponent? You guessed it: The Miami Marlins. The very franchise that robbed Cleveland of their best shot at a sports championship 15 years earlier.
Everyone got the sense that the World Series would go the Tribe’s way after Jason Kipnis turned into Cleveland’s favorite athlete almost instantaneously when he hit a screaming foul ball line drive into the first row where it struck an unsuspecting LeBron James, shattering his jaw and forcing him to miss the first few months of the NBA season. That incident would go down in Cleveland lore as “The Drive II.” But the true defining moment of the World Series was the very last play. Down by one with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Indians had the bases loaded and Travis Hafner at the plate. Instead of the prodigious blast fans were hoping for, Pronk skied a pop-up into shallow left center. Jose Reyes camped out, ready to make the catch to clinch the World Series for Miami only to have fumble the ball almost as if he were briefly possessed by the spirit of Ernest Byner. As the ball fell safely to the ground, Asdrubal Cabrera scored the tying run with Carlos Santana coming in right behind him to score the game-winner, the series winner, THE CHAMPIONSHIP WINNER!
There wasn’t a dry eye in Cleveland that night as long-abandoned dreams of athletic glory finally came true for the most tortured sports town in America.
But, alas, this is just a dream… for now…