Just when you thought 2016 couldn’t get any weirder, the Cleveland Indians won the ALCS on their way to the World Series. Also true to format for both 2016 and the Indians, it came complete with major oddities.
The Indians won the series by taking four out of five games. The 24-year-old pitcher who led in the fifth game had, prior to that game, amassed the whopping total of eleven major league innings, spread out over the grand total of four games, and only one of those a start.
Not to be outdone by possibly the most “Cleveland” thing of all-time, manager Terry Francona developed the “nervous habit” of shooting the bird at the camera whenever it happened to find him in the dugout.
Though, in retrospect, maybe Francona did not really shoot the bird at the camera, or the millions of people looking through it. Maybe Francona was shooting the bird at history?
As skipper of the Red Sox team that violently shoved the Bambino, and his curse, back into the foul bottle from whence he sprung, Francona knows a thing or two about doing away with cursed baseball teams in cities that believe themselves afflicted.
But is Cleveland still cursed?
When LeBron James spiked the ball off the glass that sealed the Cavaliers’ miraculous three games-to-one comeback against the Golden State Warriors, he didn’t just stuff a shot. He stuffed a history of futility that stretched back to 1964 when the Cleveland Browns won an NFL Championship, the last Cleveland team to win a ring.
That Cavs championship and that of the Ohio State Buckeyes, along with the rise of UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic (fighting out of Independence, Ohio. Close enough.) and the pennant winning Indians have perhaps done more to cement the notion that maybe the curse only extends to the Browns, and not the entire city of Cleveland.
— Scott Sudikoff (@Sudikoff) October 18, 2016
That said, we can’t forget that the Indians’ long-time familiarity with losing landed the team as the hard-luck franchise in the 1989 movie Major League. The Tribe hasn’t won a World Series since 1948. Still, hard-luck differs from cursed. Hard-luck comes from mismanagement, poor decisions, and inefficiency—not from the plotting of unforeseen cosmic forces.
Though, any curse attempting to stand in the way of these Indians may find itself severely outgunned. As mentioned, the Indians starters didn’t go deep in any games against the Jays, making them the best rested and freshest rotation in the World Series by far. And the Tribe will have the finest, most accomplished manager no matter who they play. The Dodgers feature a novice in Dave Roberts. And Joe Maddon, though zany-brilliant, lacks winning the big one on his resume.
Not to mention the fact that Francona and the Indians boast the single most dominant postseason player in Andrew Miller, who pitched 7.2 shutout innings in the ALCS, allowed three hits, walked no one, and struck out fourteen.
Add those things together, plus the Indians’ 1948 mojo, might just surpass the Cubs’ 1908 mojo—or the Dodgers 1988 mojo. Francona certainly appeared to present some “shock the world, let’s make history” mojo when he gave history the middle finger from the Indians dugout.
Then again, maybe he was just shooting us the bird.