Did I Fall Asleep and Wake up in 1995?

There comes a point every season when we all realize that the Indians either have it, or they don’t.  Sometimes it happens early in the season.  Other times it takes a while to really figure out whether or not something special is happening or whether or not this is all just a massive waste of our time.  I think we finally reached that point on Friday night.  Allow me to explain.

First off, I missed the game.  I know… Huuuuuuuge mistake.  I beat myself up all night because of it.  Instead I opted for game 6 of the Thunder and Grizzlies.  Yeah, I made the wrong decision.  Of course my timing couldn’t have been worse.  Somewhere during the course of the 8th inning I checked the score on my phone and saw that it was 4-2 and the Tribe had just given up 3 runs to lose the lead.  Disgusted and feeling a third straight loss coming, this time to a crap opponent, I tossed my phone aside and went back to basketball.  About 20 minutes later I’m checking Facebook and Twitter and seeing all these updates about Travis Hafner.

For example:

“Hafner homerun walk off!! wow!!” – Cannoli8

“#pronk #indians” -Swetel

“Pronk is back! Go #Tribe! Another comeback win” -big_pat_d

“Progressive Field is going crazy right now! Pronk!” -random Facebook

“#Pronk” -random Facebook

You get the idea, and that’s just a small sampling.  Thanks to Hafner and his 2 out 2 run bomb to center field, the Indians were able to escape tonight with a victory.  Absolutely incredible.

Now, why do I say this is the moment when we all realize this is for real.  Think back to the 1995 team, the first of that magical run of teams in the 90’s that would change the tide of baseball in Cleveland forever.  The calling card of that team was a young exciting brand of baseball centered around home runs and dramatic, last at bat finishes.

Ask yourself an honest question.  What is becoming the calling card of the 2011 Indians?  I realize this isn’t a question in answer form and I’m not asking you for an answer in question form (for those of you I’ve thoroughly confused, that’s how Jeopardy works) but cue up the Final Jeopardy music anyways…

Think about it…

I’ll wait…

Still waiting…

Ok, time’s up.

The calling card of the 2011 Indians is quickly becoming a young exciting brand of baseball centered around home runs and dramatic, last at bat finishes.  To top things off, this team might just have a better, more well-rounded pitching staff overall than the 1995 Indians did.  The only thing the 1995 Indians had on this current team is expectations.  The 1995 Indians were supposed to be good.  Decades of losing, a new ball park, and a roster full of fresh new talented all-stars led to that 1995 team doing some magical things.

The 2011 team is the exact opposite.  They’ve been hamstrung by the success of the 90’s, the limited success of the 2000’s, and the graceful aging of Progressive Field.  The Indians have lost that fresh sense of excitement and have become an after thought.  Even despite the success early on, the team has struggled to draw support in the form of asses in the seats thanks to a pessimistic attitude and spite towards the owner by the fan base.  Yet despite all of that, the glaring truth remains that the deeper into the season we get the more and more this team is beginning to look like the 1995 team.

Look no further than the most recent stretch of home wins.  The last five home wins, 3 against Detroit, 1 against Tampa, 1 against Seattle, have all come in the last at bat in walk off fashion.  In 1995 you knew better than to turn the game off before the final out.  That same lesson is being taught this year.  I found that out first hand tonight and I’m not about to do it again.  The 2011 Indians don’t quit until the final out.

So is this team for real?  Yes, I believe it is.  Already they’ve gotten off to the best start in franchise history, won more games in the month of April than any Indians team ever, and possess the best record in the American League and up until a few days ago they had the best record in all of baseball.  Throw in the fact that now they’re beginning to gain a flair for the dramatic in much the same way the ’95 team did and well… that’s enough to make me a believer.  And apparently it’s enough to make all of you believers too.

Why else would Twitter and Facebook light up like a Christmas tree in the middle of May for a game against the Mariners?  You all care.  You either don’t know it yet or you’re afraid to admit it.  Social media doesn’t lie when it comes to things like this.  You’re all paying close attention.  You’re all watching and listening.  Judging from tonight’s attendance of over 33,000 you’re also beginning to buy in and it’s about damn time.

As Clevelanders, regardless of where we might be living or working these days, one thing is for certain.  We’ve been waiting three generations for a Cleveland team to come along and do something special.  The Cavs have come up short time and again, the Browns are… well they’re the Browns, and the Indians have had their chances too.  None of them have cashed in.  What if this team does the unthinkable.  What if this is the team that actually ends the 5+ decades of losing?  Do you actually want to risk missing any of this just so you can continue to hold some stupid grudge against the owner and management for not putting massive amounts of money towards a winner even though the plan they’ve chosen to use is apparently creating a winner?  That makes no sense to me.  Rather than bitching and worrying about the future, worry about the present and for now the present looks pretty good.

So tonight, as Travis Hafner sent a hanging 0-1 sinker over the center field wall, the 2011 Cleveland Indians took another step towards potential greatness.  The party in the stands and on the internet might just be a small sampling for what could be coming in October.  It’s going to be a fun ride regardless of how it ends.  So what do you say?  How about you all hop on the bandwagon…

There are plenty of good seats still available.

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