To be fair, I should begin this by saying I predicted the Indians to have a mediocre season. My official prediction was 81-81. Obviously this team has surpassed my wildest expectations. For that, I'm proud of them.
That said: they've done it again. Another Cleveland team has ripped my heart out and stamped it to a bloody pulp. Obviously losing a best of seven series after roaring out to an early 3-1 lead is disappointing. But in losing the final three games by a combined score of 30-5 is downright humiliating. And to the loathesome Red Sox. And to Manny Ramirez. I'd rather have needles stuck into my eyeballs.
So, here is Nate's ALCS in a nutshell.
Just getting there. A pennant would have been great, but being in the playoffs is much better, obviously, than what the Tribe did the previous 6 Octobers, which was sit at home.
Jake Westbrook. Our number 3 pitcher made two quality starts in this series. In other words, he made two more quality starts than C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona combined. In game seven, when the Tribe needed someone to dig deep, that's just what Westbrook did. After struggling through the first three innings, he was absolutely unhittable by the time he was yanked after the sixth, which never should have happened.
Kenny Lofton. What will it take for him to win a ring? The poor guy did his job yesterday by scoring two runs. At least he would have scored two runs if he had not been called out (he was clearly safe) trying to leg out a double, and had he not been held up at third base with a base hit still careening about the outfield.
Paul Byrd. HGH scandal notwithstanding, he pitched a gem of a game four. He and Westbrook were our two true aces in the ALCS.
Asdrubal Cabrera. I've said it about 10 times already: future star. The guy was a rookie playing out of position in the ALCS. He was about the coolest guy on the field for the Tribe.
Joe Borowski. People were having strokes before Borowski ever threw a pitch in this series. Turns out our closer (who, incidentally, led the league in saves) was the least of our worries.
Eric Wedge. He was loyal to Westbrook, Byrd and Borowski the whole way through, and that loyalty paid off. He also got the most out of Trot Nixon. I don't know what he was supposed to do about the total pitching meltdown, except stay calm, which he somehow managed to do.
The rest of the mess:
C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. Look no further than our two 19 game winners to see why the Indians lost this series. Together they started 6 games in the postseason, and only Fausto tossed a decent game (game 2 vs. Yankees).
Travis Hafner. Pronk stunk, plain and simple. After his game one homer against Josh Beckett, he did nothing. His double play groundout in the first inning of game five killed a potential rally and let Beckett off the hook. His three-pitch K in game seven against Jonathan Papelbon with no outs and two on was another deflating blow. Both plays sucked the air out of his team completely. What happened to our once fearsome slugger? I repeat what I said in an earlier post: Hafner is injured, and has been all year. There really is no other explanation as to why he can no longer pull a fastball.
Joel Skinner. Somehow, incredibly, he held Kenny Lofton at third base while Franklin Gutierrez' hit was rolling across the outfield. The Indians had seized momentum in game seven, and Skinner applied the brakes. The Tribe never recovered.
Rafael Perez. ERA of 45.00 says it better than I ever could.
The left side of the infield. Casey Blake and Jhonny Peralta played infield in game seven of the ALCS was about how I would play infield in game seven of the ALCS--booting grounders and dropping popups. Blake's misplay of Jacoby Ellsbury's grounder resulted in Dustin Pedroia's two run homer that basically put game seven, and the series, out of reach.
Rafael Betancourt in game seven. WTF???
Grady Sizemore in game five. Wait a minute...wasn't that Alex Cole? The league adjusted to Grady this season, and this series exposed major holes in his game. He has a ton of work to do in the offseason, with particular attention paid to contact hitting and playing outfield walls.
Manny Ramirez. Made an ass of himself all series long and is rewarded with a trip to the Fall Classic. Truly the Sports Gods hate Cleveland.
Diasuke Matsuzaka. Apparently paying a billion dollars for a supremely mediocre pitcher works wonders. His "gyro ball" looks like nothing more than a ineffective screwball to me. He does have a nice arm, though.
Chief Wahoo. He is still an abomination and he is still firmly affixed to the Indians organization. Until the ballclub exorcises this deplorable demon, the Tribe will never win. What, I ask, is the point in keeping him? Would anyone ever miss such a racist symbol?
Well, that's it, folks. That's about all I can stand. The bottom line is: the Tribe choked. They went up 3-1 and panicked. Boston stayed cool and prevailed. Now they get to play in the World Series. Worst of luck to them. Am I bitter? Yep. Go Rockies!
PS. Kiwi Bird: I forgive you.