Okay, I believe Cleveland is Believeland after all.
The Cleveland Indians are, well, unbelievable. After winning their sixth straight post-season game Monday night, they were one victory away from playing in their first World Series in 20 years and winning their first world championship since 1948, 69 seasons ago.
It seems like the city whose teams have lost so much over the years has suddenly become title town, with the Indians feeding off the NBA champion Cavaliers. More important than that is manager Terry Francona, who won two World Series with the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007, sweeping to the title in four games each time.
Francona left Boston after the 2011 season and one year in the broadcast booth was enough. He took over the Indians and managed one of the worst teams in baseball his first season. Since then, however, the franchise has drafted and traded wisely and put together a combination young talent and savvy veterans with Francona maximizing the ability of every player on the roster. The Indians are certainly going to the World Series and, seriously, could beat the Cubs or the Dodgers the way they are playing.
Take Monday night’s game. Starting pitcher Trevor Bauer had to leave in the first inning when his pitching pinky began bleeding profusely. Francona pieced 8 and-a-third innings together from the bullpen, depending on former Tar Heel Andrew Miller to close out the Toronto Blue Jays and take a commanding lead in the American League Championship Series.
Most of the Indians are not household names, compared to the Red Sox and Blue Jay teams they faced with more power and at least equal pitching on paper. But, like the Cavaliers did behind Labron James, this team believes it can beat the odds. The Cavs were the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals, and the Indians have a chance to add a second world title in 2016.
Watch the Indians play and see if you recognize more than a couple of names in their lineup. Maybe Mike Napoli, maybe Coca Crisp. But learn the rest of them. I did and now I believe in Cleveland.