As life goes, so does baseball.
The Indians are going to appear in the postseason for the fourth time in six seasons, and while this playoff appearance has a lot to do with the division they play in*, the overall accomplishment is quite a satisfying one, given that mid-market teams like the Indians have the deck stacked against them before they take the field on Opening Day even with recent compensations.
When last the Indians did such a thing (1995-2001), they had a new brand new stadium, their main competition for entertainment dollars had left town, and the revenue balance wasn’t nearly as off-kilter as it became in the 21st century. This stretch of good-to-great baseball came with none of the external helps, unless you count Terry Francona as a deus ex manager. There wasn’t that long stretch of futility that elicits joy over even a slight success (witness the celebration over the Browns’ first victory in 19 months), there was competition for attention from the Cavaliers (because of LeBron James) and the Browns (for merely existing), and the team was outspent during its 2013 season by every other team in the division (including the Royals); they were wildly outspent by the Tigers until this year. The fanbase remained interested even during the fallow periods (see high TV ratings) but were not and are not opulent ticket buyers. So this dynastic period of Indians baseball was driven mainly by good decisions by the front office and coaching staff, something I’m itching to look at in great detail some cold winter day.
Entropy always wins out in baseball, though. The team has had a historically great pitching staff, driven both by talent but more importantly health. The front office has done a good job of avoiding a catastrophic contract millstone (when Jason Kipnis has the worst contract on the roster, that’s a good thing), but the passage of time in baseball terms means both more expensive players and a degradation of ability. Most of the players we know and love on this team will either not be in an Indians uniform in 2020 or be as effective. And that’s just assuming a normal turn of events; there always will be shocking turns.
As a baseball, I should expect at least competence from the team you follow, and occasionally excellence. That’s what the baseball people expect from themselves, after all. But there are also 29 other fanbases and front offices with the same expectations, and though some fall well short, there are enough who don’t to make continued success a rare feat (unless of course, they reside in a golden market).
So I’m enjoying everything remaining about the 2018 season. Enjoying the meaningless games left on the schedule. Enjoying the fact that there will be meaningful games to come. Enjoying the playoff games after the fact, as there’s no way that I can enjoy and be terrified of something at the same time.
As life goes, so does baseball.
*Even stating that the competition is obviously historically bad, the Indians were just a couple early-season injuries or bouts of ineffectiveness to the rotation from keeping pace with the Twins (as the Tribe’s dominant starting staff covered for a hideous bullpen by throwing the most innings in baseball), and if the Twins were within 5-6 games after the All-Star Break, they don’t unload in July, and who knows what would have happened after that? I guess what I’m saying is that no MLB team is ever guaranteed to make the playoffs no matter how massive the perceived advantage.