Sandy Alomar Jr.
Time and again, we have heard about the Billy Goat curse and the Chicago Cubs not having won a World Series since 1908. As a result, many are supposed to empathize with them for their time falling short time and again. Moreover, many sympathize with a fan base that has never seen their team win a World Series in their lifetime. While all of this is true, it is not appreciably different than being a Cleveland Indians fan.
The Indians last won the World Series in 1948 against the Boston Braves. Yes, the Boston, not Atlanta Braves. That’s how long ago the Indians last World Series title was. If you are to assume that a 10 year old had the full capacity to appreciate the World Series victory and remember the run to the World Series, that means Indians fans who could relish those Lou Boudreau teams were born in 1938. That would make those fans 78 years old today. Rounding up just a tad, unless you are an octogenarian, Indians fans have never seen their team win a World Series. What they have seen is some excruciating losses.
Back in 1995, the Indians sent out what could be considered the greatest offensive team ever assembled. That Indians team was shut down by Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Steve Avery over the six game set. A team that had scored 840 runs in 144 games (strike shortened season), an average of 5.8 runs per game, could only muster 19 runs (3.2 runs per game) in the series. A team that was shutout just three times in the regular season would be shut out in Game Six of the World Series in an excruciating 1-0 loss.
The 1997 Indians weren’t the favorites to win the World Series. Instead, they had to fight and claw their way back to the World Series. They needed the rookie Jaret Wright to become a Yankee killer and Sandy Alomar, Jr.Moi to hit a pivotal home run in what was going to be the Game 4 clincher of the ALDS for the defending champion Yankees. Instead, the Indians persevered and would win their second pennant in three years after beating the Orioles in six in the ALCS. It should be noted Armando Benitez took the loss in that game being a harbinger of things to come for Mets fans.
That 1997 World Series was thrilling with the Marlins and Indians alternating wins setting the stage for an epic Game 7. The Indians had to like their chances with their newfound postseason hero Wright going up against Al Leiter. The Indians had tattooed Leiter for seven runs in 4.2 innings in Game 4. Leiter would never win a postseason start in his career. While it was more of a challenge than the Indians expected, they hand their closer, Jose Mesa, on the mound with a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning. Mesa would blow the game allowing Craig Counsell to hit a sacrifice fly to score Moises Alou (again how was he not the MVP of that series) to tie the game. The Indians couldn’t touch the Marlins bullpen in extra innings. Finally, in the 11th, Charles Nagy gave up the game winning hit to Edgar Renteria scoring Counsell of all people as the winning run. That is as excruciating a loss as it gets for a fan.
There have been other tales of recent woe for this Indians fan base. In 1998, the Yankees exacted revenge against Wright and the Indians by scoring five runs in the first inning off Wright en route to a Yankees 4-2 ALCS series win. In 1999, the Indians blew a 2-0 series lead and a 5-2 lead in Game 5 to lose the ALDS to the Red Sox. That game was memorable for Pedro Martinez‘s epic performance out of the bullpen. The lean years were not too far away from here.
Then there was an Indians resurgence. In 2007, the Indians had a 3-1 game lead over the Red Sox in the ALCS with Game 5 at home. CC Sabathia just couldn’t close the deal, and the Indians bullpen would implode leading the Red Sox to their comeback. Like the rest of baseball, the Indians would watch helplessly as the Red Sox would win their second World Series in four years. To make matters worse, the small market Indians would have to break up the team. Two years later, Indians fans would watch as Sabathia took the hill for the Yankees in Game One of the World Series against Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies.
In response, many Cubs fans will scream the Bartman Game! One of their own prevented them from winning the pennant and going to the World Series back in 2003. Of course, that narrative is a bit nonsense because there is a real debate as to whether or not Alou could catch that ball. Furthermore, that didn’t cause Dusty Baker to leave Mark Prior out there too long. It didn’t cause Alex Gonzalez to allow a double play ball to go through his legs. It didn’t cause the Cubs to blow a 3-0 lead. It certainly didn’t cause the Cubs and Kerry Wood to blow a 5-3 lead in Game 7. Furthermore, it did not cause Cubs fans to try to ruin Bartman’s life.
Absolutely, blowing a 3-1 series lead when your team hasn’t won a World Series in nearly a century is devastating. It was no more devastating than the Indians blowing the 2007 ALCS. It is definitively not more devastating than the 1997 World Series.
Sure, it hurts to lose and not be competitive. However, as a Mets fan I know the 2015 World Series loss was infinitely more hurtful than anything I saw from 1991 – 1996 or 2001 – 2004 or even 2009 – 2014. No, it is hte misses that stick with you the longest. Personally, I’m more haunted by Ron Darling pitching the worst game of his life against an unbeatable Orel Hershiser, Kenny Rogers walking Andruw Jones, Luis Sojo‘s two RBI single off Leiter, Carlos Beltran looking at an Adam Wainwright curveball, Eric Hosmer‘s mad dash to home plate, and any of the other events that led to those deciding plays which ended the Mets postseasons.
The Cubs may not have won since 1908, but the Indians fan base is the more tortured fan base. They deserve this World Series title more than anyone.
After Jeurys Familia allowed a three run home run to Conor Gillaspie, he was booed off the mound at the end of the top of the ninth in the Wild Card Game. From what I heard at Citi Field, and what I read in the comments section to my Mets Merized Online article, there is a significant portion of Mets fans that believe Familia is a choke artist. There’s another group of fans that want the Mets to move Familia to the eighth inning and sign someone like Aroldis Chapman in free agency.
About that . . .
After two Cubs relievers allowed Brandon Belt and Buster Posey to get on to start the bottom of the eighth inning, Joe Maddon stopped messing around, and he brought in Chapman to get the six out save to propel the Cubs to the NLCS. It would be the second time in Chapman’s career and first time in his postseason career that a manager would ask him to get a six out save. After striking out Hunter Pence, Gillaspie came to the plate with the chance to tie the game.
Chapman threw a fastball over the heart of the plate, and Gillaspie, yes, the very same Gillaspie, swung from his shoetops again. Gillaspie hit this ball even harder than the one he hit off Familia. The reason it wasn’t a home run was because it is 421 to right center at AT&T Park. In Citi Field, that’s a home run. Really, in any other park, that’s a home run. Instead, in AT&T Park, it is a bases clearing triple that gave the Giants a 4-3 lead. After that Brandon Crawford hit an RBI single scoring Gillaspie to make it 5-3.
That was a crucial at-bat against a Giants team that does not know how to quit. They weren’t daunted by facing Chapman. They weren’t daunted when Sergio Romo blew a save by allowing Kris Bryant to hit a game tying two run home run in the ninth. No, this Giants team fought off elimination by winning on a Joe Panik walk-off RBI double.
Now, if Chapman did his job and got Gillaspie out like he should’ve, the Cubs would’ve won the series. However, that’s the life of a closer. They all blow the big ones.
Look no further than the greatest closer, postseason or otherwise. In Mariano Rivera‘s first postseason as the Yankees closer, he was asked to make a five out save to close out the 1997 ALDS and send the Yankees to the ALCS to continue to defend their World Series title. Rivera would allow Sandy Alomar, Jr. to hit a game tying home run in a game the Yankees would lose in the ninth. The Yankees would go on to lose the series.
In the 2001 World Series, Rivera took the mound to save Game 7 of the World Series. Not only did Rivera allow a Mark Grace lead-off single, he then threw Damian Miller‘s sacrifice bunt attempt into center field. After Rivera calmed things down by field Jay Bell‘s sacrifice bunt attempt and nailing Grace at third, he allowed a game tying double to Tony Womack. Eventually, the Yankees would lose the World Series on a Luis Gonzalez walk-off single.
Fast-forward a couple of years to the 2004 ALCS. On back-to-back nights, Rivera blew saves that allowed the Red Sox to complete the improbable and unprecedented comeback from being down 0-3 in the series. It was Rivera’s blown saves that gave the Red Sox life and that ultimately propelled them to their first World Series title since 1918.
However, when talking about the totality of Rivera’s career, we don’t focus on those four devastating blown saves. No, we call him the greatest closer in the history of the game because we use perspective and realize there was a greater body of work available to derive a conclusion. In his postseason career, Rivera made 96 appearances going 8-1 with 18 saves, a 0.32 ERA, and a 0.571 WHIP.
Now, no one is calling or comparing Familia to Rivera. However, Rivera is illustrative of the fact that we should again take the totality of his postseason appearances into account. The Mets certainly don’t get out of the NLDS without Familia, and the NLCS would’ve been more difficult if Familia wasn’t shutting the door. In Familia’s postseason career, he has made 13 appearances going 0-1 with five saves, a 2.30 ERA, and a 0.638 WHIP. And remember, two of his three blown saves were the result of a Daniel Murphy and a Lucas Duda error. Flat out, Familia has been great in the postseason.
By the way, Chapman is 2/4 in save chances in his postseason career. Overall, he has made eight appearances going 0-1 with a 2.57 ERA and a 1.571 WHIP. Familia is better.