Tribe finished despite strong finish
In an alternate universe, it's still 2005, and the Indians' 7-1 record against the Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Devil Rays over the last week of the season put them into the playoffs. It completed a magical run that saw the team roll through the last two months of the season that saw the Tribe go from a .500 team at midseason to one of the league's best, all while clinching their first division title in five years. In that alternative universe, the Indians will be playing the Oakland A's Tuesday at Jacobs Field in the first game of the ALDS; your pitching matchup: C.C. Sabathia vs. Barry Zito.
But in this universe -- you know, the REAL one -- the Indians' 7-1 record against the Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Devil Rays over the last week of the season put them mercifully to bed. The season that really ended in May officially ended with a sweep of the Devil Rays and a 78-84 record. That left them closer to the last-place Kansas City Royals (62-100) than it did to the first-place Minnesota Twins (96-66).
And in this universe -- you know, the REAL one -- when the Indians faced the White Sox and the Devil Rays for six games over the final week of the season in 2005, needing really to win just half of them, the Tribe could muster only one win. One. But sometimes you'd think the Tribe brass lives in that alternate universe.
The Indian Summer Mirage last year, when they went 42-15 from July 23 to Sept. 24, convinced Tribe management -- and many of the fans -- that the rebuilding had worked. But what's the reality? The 42-15 record for two months last year, or the 351-452 record for the remainder of the last five seasons?
Which is kind of weird to hear from an organization that values a player's track record. After all, that's why they signed Aaron Boone. And took Guillermo Mota in the Coco Crisp trade. And signed "innings-eater" Jason Johnson. And let him keep pitching. Contention by 2005? Yep. But no one promised us anything after that, did they???
Next season we'll be entering the fifth year of GM Mark Shapiro's lightning-fast rebuilding program. They've posted 74, 68, 80, 93, and now 78 wins during that time. They're a combined 24 games under .500, which only looks that good because of the 93-win season last year. Four losing terms in five tries don't breed much confidence. Not in a division which has become the best in baseball faster than
Once again, we're left waiting for last year, just as we have been every year for the past four decades.