Cleveland Indians’ Postseason Dreams Still Alive and Well

Sep 16, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis (22) celebrates with first baseman Mike Napoli (26) after Napoli hit a home run during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 16, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis (22) celebrates with first baseman Mike Napoli (26) after Napoli hit a home run during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

One Cleveland Indians beat reporter pronounced the team’s postseason aspirations dead on Saturday night following the loss of Carlos Carrasco. But don’t tell that to the Tribe.

The Cleveland Indians have been dealing with adversity since spring training. That’s when the questions surrounding the health of Michael Brantley and the timetable for his return to the team began to arise, and with the benefit of hindsight, we know how that turned out.

Brantley managed to appear in just 11 games in 2016 due to lingering issues with his surgically-repaired right shoulder, and Cleveland has been without one of the premier hitters in the American League.

Yet, the Indians have just kept grinding away, occupying first place in the Central Division for the past 108 days, and being projected to win 93 games. The club has not used Brantley’s absence as an excuse, nor has it hid behind injuries to Yan Gomes, Danny Salazar, and, most recently, Carlos Carrasco. The resilience shown by the Tribe this year has truly been something to behold.

And so that makes the column published on Saturday night by Paul Hoynes, longtime beat writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and, that much stranger. Following Cleveland’s 1-0 walkoff win in the 10th inning over the Detroit Tigers, Hoynes published an editorial titled “Sept. 17: The day Cleveland Indians’ postseason dreams ended before they began.”

Hoynes was reacting to the loss of Carrasco, who on the second pitch of the game took a comebacker off the bat of Ian Kinsler to his pitching hand. It was revealed by the team during the game that the right-hander had sustained a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal, effectively ending his season. Carrasco was the second member of the starting rotation, joining Salazar, to sustain a serious injury in just over a week.

The piece begins:

"“The Indians won a ballgame Saturday afternoon, but their postseason dreams ended.“Write it down. On Sept. 17, the Indians were eliminated from serious postseason advancement before they even got there.“They have 14 regular season games left and they’ll eventually clinch their first AL Central title in nine years. But that’s where it ends, because no team can withstand the losses the Indians have suffered over the last nine days.”"

Certainly the Indians have sustained some major losses to their roster, and those losses will make the postseason more challenging. But one is really forced to question, having read Hoynes’ article, if he has been watching the team he is tasked with covering at all this season. Anyone who has paid attention to what the Tribe has done for the past five and a half months could not possibly write them off so easily, nor be so tone-deaf as to publish a piece saying so.

Cleveland has defied expectations all season long, and has done so as a team. From manager Terry Francona on down through the players, this is a club that has played for each other, looked to pick each other up, and have a little fun during a long season. In a sports climate fixated on the negative, the season the Indians have had to this point, and still could have in the playoffs, is something to be celebrated.

“It just seems like this team is special,” Andrew Miller said after Saturday’s win. “We have a feeling like we’re going to find a way.”

After Sunday’s game, a 9-5 loss to the Tigers, Chris Gimenez echoed that sentiment, saying, “I think everybody in here, it almost makes you have a bit more motivation, because you want to do it so bad for those guys who aren’t here to help us do it in their own right.”

As one would expect, though, the reaction from the team to Hoynes’ piece was not a pleasant one.

A team in the position the Indians are in, controlling their postseason destiny and possessing an opportunity to play for a championship, and that has experienced the level of adversity the Indians have in 2016 certainly does not need any extra motivation, but now they have it.

Trevor Bauer, who had an interesting outing on the mound on the Sunday, also took to Twitter to voice his opinions.

The backlash to the piece is to be expected, it seems, and the players justified in their reactions, as they are the ones that since mid-February have been working hard to get to this point and have these postseason opportunities ahead of them. To have that hard work dismissed out of hand, and by someone who is consistently around the team as a beat writer, comes across as a betrayal of sorts.

Beat writers see things behind the scenes that ordinary fans do not, and should have a level of appreciation for the effort it takes just to survive, let alone succeed, a Major League Baseball season.

The opinion of Hoynes notwithstanding, this has been a season of Tribe baseball that has been special on several levels for the franchise, the players, and the fans. And it’s nowhere close to being over. Not by a longshot.

What’s most important, ultimately, is not an editorial from a beat writer, nor even an injury bug that seems to be relentlessly mowing down players. The important thing is that the guys in that locker room at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario and the fans who live and die with every pitch have belief and have each other.

Francona summed things up perfectly on Saturday night after the Indians’ 10th walkoff win of the season, saying, “It will make this more challenging, what we’re trying to do. But when we do it, it will feel all that much better.”

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That sort of optimism and belief is the reason the Tribe has had the season it has, and why, however the season ultimately ends, 2016 will have been a year for everyone involved to be proud of. And that’s the point Paul Hoynes missed.